COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN
Kathy Standryk works at the front desk of the lobby of the Comfort Inn.
Since Brandon implemented its hotel tax last summer, the city has brought in nearly $709,000 and committed more than $113,000 of the reserve to tourism initiatives and local events.
While there was some concern that the extra $3 per night could negatively impact the city’s occupancy rate, Brandon is actually seeing a slight increase — 1.6 per cent — in hotel occupancy.
"While there’s a small increase in there and that’s positive, we would like to see a much larger increase," said Sandy Trudel, the city’s director of economic development.
The year-to-date occupancy rate in June 2012 was 52.7 per cent, while the June 2013 YTD was 54.4 per cent. The average hotel occupancy rate for June 2012 was 50.9 per cent, compared to 59.4 per cent this past June.
Trudel said the 14 events approved through the accommodation tax funding over the past year have generated nearly 7,000 room nights.
"That’s a significant number of room nights that have been generated as a result of the accommodation tax," she said, adding the city would like to see the occupancy rate continue to climb.
"Obviously that’s benefiting everybody in the community, because we know that overnight stays, while we often attribute them to benefiting the hotels, we know that those folks are shopping in the stores, they’re using services, they’re gassing up, they’re eating in restaurants, so it’s felt through the entire community."
Darlene Janssen, general manager of the Comfort Inn, said the hotel still comes across guests who are irritated by the extra charge.
"There are still some people that get very irate about it and then there’s some that just accept it as that’s the way it is," she said.
A fair amount of people ask what the hotel tax is used for.
"So we try hard to promote the fact that it is used to attract events to Brandon and that it helps fund events that come to Brandon," she said. "They seem to be a little more satisfied with that answer."
As for Janssen’s personal opinion on the tax, she says she would have preferred the city come up with a creative solution to fund events rather than more taxes.
"However, I don’t have the answer," she said. "It’s just too bad that we couldn’t come up with a more creative enticement."
Trudel said she is pleased to see that more groups are becoming aware of the accommodation tax funding and submitting applications.
"We’re just encouraging anyone that’s involved with any events, really think about what the possibilities are and take advantage of the accommodation tax because it truly is something that can help organizations benefit both at the time of the event and potentially after, depending on how the funding has been set up," she said.
Some events that have benefited from the accommodation tax reserve include the Wheat City Stampede ($21,000), Super Softball Weekend ($7,500), Senior Women’s Academic Administrators of Canada conference ($4,000), Hockey Brandon’s Tournament of Champions ($25,000) and the Wheat City Lions Club mid-winter convention ($5,000), among several others.
"In a perfect world, our desire would be to be approving event funding applications continuously and always drawing down that reserve because that means then that we’re truly meeting the objective of the reserve," Trudel said.
As part of the city’s accommodation tax initiative, a portion of the funds are set aside into a separate reserve for large event acquisition.
"Basically 10 per cent of what is collected each quarter is set aside into the large event reserve," Trudel said.
Those funds will be there in case the city is looking to attract a major event, such as the Memorial Cup or Canada Summer Games.
"Things that are truly going to fill the rafters," she said.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 29, 2013