Editorial: After the crush
As we enter the month of August, it’s time to really brace ourselves for the peak of visitor activity in the Gulf Islands.
For those in the business of serving tourists, it’s the time to work hard and make as much money as possible to carry themselves through the rest of the year. For ordinary residents, August is the month to refine survival techniques for coping with the crowds, or to escape to other places.
Everyone likely agrees that Salt Spring and the other Gulf Islands are maxed out in terms of their capacity to deal with visitors in the two main summer months, but that more visitors could be accommodated in other months. The Southern Gulf Islands Tourism Partnership Society is a new organization that has formed to try increasing tourism activity in the spring and fall seasons; to perhaps persuade some visitors that a summertime Saturday is not the only time to visit Salt Spring Island, for example. It also wants to improve connectivity between the various islands, which is a great idea. The society grew out of work done by the islands’ two economic development commissions of the Capital Regional District and attempts to do some joint marketing between the islands with some available grant money.
The main thrust of the group is to raise some revenue that could be used on marketing and tourist education through a new accommodation tax that comes into effect this fall.
At first blush, adding a two per cent tax to the cost of accommodation for tourists might seem like a discouraging action. That is especially so since the provincial government added an eight per cent tax for the same service beginning last October.
But hotel taxes, as they are more commonly known, are not a new concept and travellers expect to pay something more for the time they spend in a local jurisdiction.
It’s hard to know how much revenue could be raised through the tax, although the society is guessing $250,000 per year is possible. An individual will need to be hired to administer the program.
Spreading out tourist visits to reduce the summertime crunch but improve employment options year-round makes a lot of sense. We look forward to seeing how the society’s marketing plans will unfold and the impact that will have in future years.