British Columbia is introducing a new tax on hotels and other short-term accommodations that communities can tap to offset the cost of hosting major tourism events.
The idea for the surtax, called the major events municipal and regional district tax, grew out of a request by the City of Vancouver to help with the cost of hosting games during the 2026 World Cup.
A community can tap into the tax, up to a maximum of 2.5 per cent, to plan, stage and host a major event that provides a boost to the provincial tourism economy.
The B.C. government describes it as “a time-limited, dedicated funding tool that communities can apply for through Destination B.C.”
Communities must get approval from the tourism and finance ministers before applying the tax, which is only allowed for a defined time and must be publicly reported.
“This isn’t a new concept,” said B.C. Minister of Finance Selina Robinson, noting that Whistler had a temporary four-per-cent resort area tax on top of its existing accommodation tax to help with the costs of hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics.
“We are thrilled that Vancouver was selected as one of the host cities for the FIFA World Cup 2026, the largest single sporting event in the world,” said Tourism Minister Lisa Beare. “This tool will support our partnership with the city to ensure the event is a success.”
Though introduced before incoming Vancouver mayor Ken Sim takes office, Sim indicated Monday he is on side.
“The provincial government and mayor-elect Sim are aligned on this new mechanism to support major events like the 2026 World Cup,” said a statement. “The province has articulated that the incoming (tax) will be up to 2.5 per cent. We recognize that our tourism sector will be rate sensitive to such a measure.”
B.C. Liberal finance critic Peter Milobar warned that communities need to tread lightly hitting up the highly taxed sector for more money.
“I think you always have to be careful … around that level of taxation when you start to layer on things,” said Milobar. He said there are still many questions such as how long the tax can be applied, and what type of event will qualify.
“I think there’s a certain irony that on a day in question period where we were asking questions about the Olympic bid, that they were bringing forward a way to generate revenues that could have offset a lot of those costs of the 2030 Olympics if this was already in the works legislatively.
“So it does make you question what cabinet is talking about when they go in and say the Olympics is going to be too much risk,” when this tax could have been put in place to offset that risk, said Milobar.
While it was introduced with the 2026 World Cup in mind, any B.C. community hosting a major event can apply.
— With a file from Katie DeRosa
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