Tourism accommodation providers in rural B.C. will receive a property tax break in 2017, said Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett after the provincial budget was announced.
“Effective for the 2017 tax year, tourism operations outside of municipalities will be eligible for a reduction in assessed value of up to $500,000,” said Barnett who has been fighting for the reduction on behalf of tourism operators for six years.
Previously operators were eligible for a reduction in assessed value up to $150,000.
The reduction amount was never increased while the value of the land did.
“It’s become harder and harder for these operators who only open two or three months of the year because they are seasonal,” Barnett said, noting many operators have sold or subdivided because it became to expensive to stay in business.
Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association chair Pat Corbett was instrumental is pushing for the tax break.
As the previous founder, developer and president of the Hill’s Health Ranch at 108 Mile, Corbett saw his property taxes skyrocket in 2009 and 2010, he said.
At the same time, revenues were crashing and collapsing in the tourism industry across Canada and especially in the Cariboo region.
“It was tied directly to the economic collapse that began in September 2008 in the U.S.,” Corbett said. “It was one of the most stunning experiences I have ever had in business where I’ve seen a geographic market completely dry up and go to zero.”
Operators across the region saw anywhere from a 20 percent to 40 per cent revenue collapse, Corbett said.
“I went to see Donna Barnett in 2010 and told her it was becoming one of the biggest problems for the survival of the region’s tourism industry,” he recalled.
Corbett said many resorts that were along Highway 20 and 24 are note closed and gone.
The tax break comes too late for some owners, who have been doubly impacted by cuts to the ferry services at Bella Coola, but will help others who remain in business, Corbett said, noting he sold his own business in 2014.
“The facts are if it wasn’t for MLA Barnett and Cariboo Regional District Chair Al Richmond who kept fighting for operators we wouldn’t have got it at all,” he added.