Ho­tel ‘fee’ added to rooms for mar­ket­ing

Money to be used to get con­ven­tions

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - MATTHEW VAN DONGEN

At least some of Hamil­ton’s ho­tels are mov­ing ahead with a plan to charge three per cent ex­tra on room bills to help fund a re­gional mar­ket­ing ef­fort.

Des­ti­na­tion mar­ket­ing pro­gram fees are al­ready charged by most of the city’s nearby com­peti­tor com­mu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing Toronto, St. Catharines and Ni­a­gara Falls.

On­tario pro­vides fee guide­lines for in­dus­try groups that spec­ify the ex­tra cash must not be char­ac­ter­ized as a tax. The fee can be in­cluded in the to­tal room price ad­ver­tised or sep­a­rately added and ex­plained to cus­tomers.

The des­ti­na­tion mar­ket­ing cash, to be ad­min­is­tered by an in­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tion, is meant to help lure more con­ven­tions and events to the city, which in turn is ex­pected to help fill ho­tel rooms.

“We’re pretty ex­cited about it,” said Vran­cor Group re­gional mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor Karen McQuade, who noted com­pe­ti­tion among cities for ho­tel-pack­ing events is grow­ing. “We’re look­ing for­ward to be­ing able to wel­come more groups to the city.”

Vran­cor co-chair P.J. Mer­canti said last year the ho­tel in­dus­try loses out on up to $20 mil­lion an­nu­ally in rev­enues based on the num­ber of va­cant rooms.

He said the fee would pro­vide hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars for tourism mar­ket­ing if most lo­cal ho­tels signed on to the vol­un­tary pro­gram. It’s not yet clear how many ho­tels will par­tic­i­pate.

The idea has its de­trac­tors. Coun. Matthew Green called the fee a “pseudo tax” on cus­tomers.

Falls ho­tels have re­ceived crit­i­cism about the trans­parency of a sim­i­lar pro­gram, in­clud­ing how it is de­scribed and if it can be re­moved by cus­tomer re­quest.

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