Calgary Hotel Association calls on province to waive travel levy

‘Do the right thing, and continue to abate the tourism levy as Stampede and other sources of vital tourism start to recover and return to our province’

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The Calgary Hotel Association is calling for the province to defer a travel levy on hotel stays to help the tourism industry recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Sol Zia, executive director of the association, joined members of the Opposition NDP on Sunday to call on Premier Jason Kenney and his government to temporarily lift the four per cent levy included on purchasing accommodations in Alberta. He said the tourism industry has been hit hard the past 16 months as people stayed home and travel was discouraged.

“In pre-pandemic times Calgary’s hotels would employ over 5,000 employees and generate about $400 million in collected revenues, which in turn would generate about $16 million from this city in Alberta tourism levy remitted to the Alberta treasury,” Zia said during the news conference. “In 2021, we hope and are striving to bring back much of our lost workforce, and we’ll work very hard, very, very hard to get back to at least $100 million in revenue.”

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Last May, the government allowed hotels to hold onto the levies they collected until Dec. 31. In December they extended that decision for a further three months. It was extended once again in May to the end of June. The City of Calgary has deferred property taxes on hotels until the end of 2022.

On Sunday, Zia, as well as NDP MLA Sarah Hoffman, called for the abatement of the levy to continue to allow hotels to rehire their workforce.

“Do the right thing, and continue to abate the tourism levy as Stampede and other sources of vital tourism start to recover and return to our province,” said Zia.

Alberta NDP MLA Sarah Hoffman speaks at Hotel Arts In Calgary on Sunday, July 11, 2021.
Alberta NDP MLA Sarah Hoffman speaks at Hotel Arts In Calgary on Sunday, July 11, 2021. Photo by Jim Wells/Postmedia

He said the Stampede has brought a boost to the hotel industry as occupancy rates could reach 50 per cent, but noted that would be the best they can hope for as international borders remain closed and other parts of Canada continue to have public health restrictions and travel advisories in effect.

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He called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reopen the border and support the tourism industry. The border is set to remain closed to foreign visitors until at least July 21.

“Of course, without international travel and the border being reopened, 50 per cent is as good as we’ll get,” said Zia.

Hoffman added her party estimates that abating the levy would put $50 million back into the province’s tourism sector.

Justin Brattinga, press secretary for Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer, said the government is considering further abating the levy.

“The previous abatement is estimated to have provided the hospitality industry with as much as $33 million in cash flow during the pandemic,” Brattinga said in an email.

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