Marketing moves: Timmins hoteliers, tourism operators ponder hotel room levy.

Author:Ross, Ian

A conversation will start this spring about whether Timmins' hoteliers and tourism-oriented businesses have an appetite to adopt a destination marketing fee.

A tourism master plan comes out in early March which will map the city's future direction on the hospitality front. It's expected to provide some clarity and direction on whether a surcharge attached to hotel bills for tourism promotional purposes is a wise move.

Tourism promotion in Timmins is heading in a new direction with the demise of the Shania Twain Centre and the Hollinger Gold Mine Tour.

As a northeastern Ontario city that's off the beaten track for most recreational travellers, the city's tourism department wants to introduce the fee as a means to generate some supplemental dollars to attract more conferences and sports tourism events and to promote its festivals.

"I think it would create a competitive advantage for the city and its stakeholders." said Timmins Tourism manager Guy Lamarche.

More than a dozen Ontario communities have destination marketing fees, including Toronto. Ottawa. Niagara Falls and Sault Ste. Marie.

The Sault introduced the fee in 2005, which annually pools about $700.000 from hotel operators that's earmarked for promotional purposes and product development for attractions like the popular Aga-wa Canyon Tour Train.

"Sault Ste. Marie with their extra $700 grand can do a lot of' magic in the marketplace," said Lamarche.

Some in the community feel Timmins is a hard sell due to its location and that more needs to be done to attract more midsized conventions and industry events like the annual mining show. Lamarche said raising additional promotional dollars will only enhance Timmins' visibility as a host city.

"If you're out of sight, you're out of mind and you've got to be in the marketplace."

Typically under a destination marketing fee program, participating hotels voluntarily remit about three per cent of room revenues to an accommodations association which then transfers funds to a not-for-profit marketing organization for initiatives to promote their city or region. The fee appears as a surcharge on a hotel bill.

But it hasn't always worked smoothly in Ontario. The fees have created controversy in some places because of the lack of regulatory oversight and transparency.

In 2008, Ontario's Consumer Ministry issued a warning to Niagara Falls hotel and restaurant operators not to claim that the fees are for tourism marketing initiative if it's not being...

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