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Belleville city council approves new tax and fund to boost tourism

While the new tax received swift approval from city council, deciding who would be involved in the oversight is still an ongoing process. Photo by Evan McClelland, QNet News

By Evan McClelland [1]

BELLEVILLE –  A new tax will have visitors to Belleville paying four per cent more for their hotel and Airbnb stays.

On Monday, city council unanimously approved the tax that would be used to support the area’s tourism industry without burdening the community.

“You know, we’re not asking (the industry) to pay this fee, we’re not asking taxpayers to pay it. We’re actually able to get it from visitors,” Mayor Mitch Panciuk said.

The previous provincial government created the accommodation tax in 2017, allowing municipalities to implement the tax if they so desired.

The Tourism Industry Association of Ontario [2], in their FAQ [3] on the accommodation tax, said the tax helps its members. The new tax also has the support of area hotels and bed and breakfasts.

“I think they see that the ability for us now to market the entire region will bring more people to come and visit, which helps their businesses,” Panciuk said.

Council decided to have the tax placed on all hotels and Airbnbs in the city. In the case of Airbnb, the tax provides more benefits than just increased revenue.

“Right now bed and breakfasts – and Airbnbs – kind of fly under the radar in the city of Belleville. We don’t know about them,” Panciuk said.

The city came to an agreement with Airbnb to combat this problem, Panciuk said. The company will collect the tax from its members for the city, while also providing information about the locations of their rooms.

With that information, “we can make sure that they are properly run, that they are licensed and everything else. So, there are lots of benefits to having this accommodation tax when it comes to Airbnbs and (bed and breakfasts) in our community,” Panciuk said.

As for the tax itself, the amount is up to the municipality, but four per cent is the industry standard, according to a report that was presented to council.

The revenue generated will go into the new Tourism Reserve Fund. How much of a role the local accommodation industry plays in the oversight of that spending was a topic of long debate, and has still yet to be fully decided. However, the money would be spent on initiatives to create various attractions, events, facilities, and services.

The fact that the city’s sector is growing and, “the accommodation sector in Belleville is pretty robust is a good sign of the fact that we’re going to generate these revenues and we’re going to be able to spend them on things that bring even more people to come visit us,” Panciuk said.

Now that the tax has received the city’s approval, it will come into effect July 1.