British Columbia Hotel Association president Earl Wilde said this morning the Campbell administration's harmonized sales tax is a "business-friendly" decision. But, he added, "I can't say it's necessarily a consumer-friendly thing." In an interview with Public Eye, Mr. Wilde said the tax will increase the prices for meals at hotel restaurants. He'd also like to know what will happen to the provincial sales tax rebate long-term guests receive after being in British Columbia for 30 days. Although, "for business overall - especially hotels where we reinvest a huge amount of capital into properties - there's no question it's going to save money."
That being said, though, "as a consumer, I look at it and don't see a lot of upside to this," he continued. "And it did come out of the blue. But I think it was inevitable."
Which is is why Mr. Wilde and association chief executive officer James Chase very briefly brought the issue up when they met with Tourism, Culture and the Arts Minister Kevin Krueger in the hours prior to the tax being announced.
"He wouldn't even discuss it really. He probably knew it was coming out that day. But it was a bit of a shock. It was a bit of surprise. But I see other provinces following suite," he said.
"It is such an unmanageable thing from a federal standpoint to have both these taxes being collected and going in different directions. Obviously, from an administrative standpoint, harmonization is great for them. Whether it's great for everybody else, it's hard to say."
Mr. Wilde said, in the coming months, his association will be looking to see whether the two percent tourism tax levied by municipal governments "remains an add on" and what happens to the eight percent provincial hotel room tax.
The association has been an active supporter of the provincial Liberals. In its June 2009 newsletter, the hoteliers described themselves as playing a "pivotal role in the election as a leading member of the Coalition of BC Businesses and its Vote BC Jobs election campaign."