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The idea of implementing a destination marketing fee (DMF) through local tourism businesses has some members of the community very excited, and some just plain won’t discuss it.
Councillor Bob Stone, chair of the Town’s Economic Development Committee, tried last month to have his committee add the initiative to their task list for the year. In a vote, with a majority citing ‘been there done that, we should not waste our time,’ the committee decided not to further investigate the idea.
In Ontario a destination marketing fee is a voluntary initiative whereby providers in the tourism business, most commonly accommodation, in a specific region collect a fee from their customers for the purpose of supporting regional tourism marketing and development. The fees that are collected are turned over to a local, non-profit, destination marketing organization to pay for identified marketing initiatives. This fee may be based on a small percentage of the overall bill or a flat rate. Destination marketing fees are not presently governed by legislation but exist on a voluntary basis in other regions in the province, most notably Niagara Falls, Ottawa and Toronto.
Stone just doesn’t understand why such an opportunity is not worthy of further exploration.
In my opinion it’s an opportunity that should not be missed. It costs them (hotels) nothing. That money would then be used to increase tourism, and hopefully, in the off season. By doing this it frees up money the Town is now spending on things like Ironman, which cost over $90,000 this year, for things like roads. It’s a win, win, win. The taxpayers win. The hotels win. And the Town wins. It makes so much sense to me.
Councillor Bob Stone
Ironman Muskoka medical director and local doctor, Rich Trenholm, agrees.
If the community collectively puts this tax into effect, we would have ample enough money to help run not only events like the triathlon events but as well, music festivals, cultural exhibitions, theatre in the park, studio tours, and all the kind of tourism that puts people in the beds of these resorts.
Rich Trenholm, Ironman Muskoka
Trenholm fully acknowledges how expensive it is to host a world-class event such as the Ironman and says chasing sponsorships is not a sustainable model. “The single greatest challenge to bringing these various events to a community, to put our community on a world stage, is the money. If we had the ability to pay to have these events come to our community as well as market them properly, the return on that investment will come in spades. We need a sustainable model for funding on an ongoing basis. We have racked our brains to try unstable platforms such as sponsorship and grants. A DMF provides (that stability). As long as it is a transparent process and explained well to the tourist there will be less push back.”
However, push back from consumers is widely documented in the media. Perhaps most scathing is the Marketplace segment that used phantom tourists and hidden cameras in Niagara Falls to expose a complete lack of transparency and understanding of the fee on behalf of businesses and their staff who are collecting it.
Perhaps it is because of the reputation that precedes the DMF, that to date we have been unable to secure a comment from anyone in the accommodation sector? Getting the hotels to the table, even to just talk about the idea and the many concerns associated with it, may be the greatest challenge.
It has been suggested that between $700,000 – $900,000 a year could be raised
Since at this point the idea of establishing a DMF is a non-starter, work hasn’t been done to determine how much money could be raised through the initiative. However, unformalized numbers as high as $700,000-$900,000 a year have been suggested. There is no shortage of events that could benefit from that kind of cash infusion; Nuit Blanche North, Muskoka Heritage Place, Film North Festival, Ironman Muskoka, and the Huntsville Lake of Bays Chamber of Commerce are just a few organizations who have been in the news lately because of funding woes.
Councillor Stone hasn’t given up on the idea. “I see no harm in having the discussion and educating the hotels. The minutes from the Economic Development committee will go to council (Monday November 23) and if the majority of council has heard a lot of the comments recently, they may pull this item and add it back on to the task force.”
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