The city’s economic development officer says 2017 was a banner year for local hotels.
That’s good news from the city’s perspective, as 2017 was the first year they collected Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT) from hotels to support the city’s tourism and marketing initiatives. The city was approved for a three per cent hotel tax to put into their tourism initiatives in December of 2016, hoping it would add up to $290,000 to their coffers to offset the $250,000 they were spending on tourism marketing.
According to Klukas’ report to council, that tax actually ended up bringing in $403,816 between March and December last year, because, according to the report, Campbell River had the highest hotel occupancy percentage in the province in 2017 at 75.4 per cent. During the peak summer months, occupancy rates were a whopping 93.5 per cent (July) and 97.6 per cent (August).
Those kinds of numbers, while great for the hotels themselves, are worrisome in another way, Coun. Larry Samson says.
“There’s two ways I can look at that,” Samson said. “The first is that it’s great, because it shows how busy we are, but does it also tell us that we’re under-served in terms of the number of hotel rooms available in our city compared to other cities in the province?”
Klukas said she mainly attributes the occupancy numbers to “a number of fairly large events,” held in Campbell River last year, including Tribal Journeys and the BC Elders Gathering, “however we do see the hotels filling up even in the offseason, so from an economic development perspective, I’m keeping an eye on that,” she continues, saying she’s currently in discussion with people who may be interested in opening more hotels here.
Klukas’ report also touched on the impact of the increasing minimum wage on the staffing budget for the Visitor Information Centre, which they hope to offset with more retail sales, as well as the idea of hiring based on funding amounts from other levels of government.
Coun. Colleen Evans wanted to know more about the Visitor Information Centre’s status for the upcoming season. There has been discussion in the past about whether it would remain housed in the same facility as the Campbell River Art Gallery downtown, relocated – which it actually was for a time last year, causing quite an uproar from tourism operators – or whether there would be satellite kiosks or booths added to the tourism offerings.
“In the report it talks about applying for student grants, and that’s fantastic,” said Coun. Colleen Evans, “but I’d just like some clarification about the minimum hours of operations and what the minimum staff is going to be. Will there be a satellite location or just the one standalone visitor centre?”
Klukas said the Visitor Information Centre is currently staffed by two full-time employees, “but the decision (about summer student funding grants) unfortunately doesn’t usually happen until sometime in May. I fully expect regular summer hours as in past years, but staffing levels will be dependent on how much grant money they get from the federal government.”
The report also said the spring tourism marketing campaign is ready to roll out, part of which will entail bringing in “market influencers” – people active in the tourism sector with strong online and social media followings – and having them share their experience in the region to their followers.