Kenney government letting Alberta hotels keep tourism levy amounts to help industry weather pandemic

Hotels and other lodging providers in Alberta will be able to keep tourism levy amounts collected between March 1 and Dec. 31, 2020 as part of the provincial government’s plan to help the tourism sector get through the COVID-19 crisis.

“Alberta’s tourism industry is a key contributor to our economy and it creates jobs and revenue that so many communities across our province depend on,” Economic Development, Trade and Tourism Minister Tanya Fir said in a news release in which the new support was announced on Tuesday.

“We’re committed to providing industry the support it needs now so that it can recover and grow.”

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The government said the tourism levy measure should free up between $16 million and $27 million in additional cashflow for the province’s hospitality sector. The province also noted that tourism levy amounts collected before March 1 that are being deferred under a previously announced deferral program “can continue to be deferred until Aug. 31, 2020.”

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Dave Kaiser, the president and CEO of the Alberta Hotel and Lodging Association, said his organization took part in an industry roundtable with Premier Jason Kenney soon after the pandemic hit the province. He said the issue of cash liquidity was identified as the industry’s No. 1 concern.

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“One of our key asks was for government to leave every tax dollar possible in the hands of our members to support liquidity for their business,” he said on Tuesday. “Today’s announcement directly supports our ask and is positive news for hotels in Alberta.”

Alida Visbach, board chair of the Tourism Industry Association of Alberta, said the move will likely be able to help hotels rehire staff and purchase supplies.

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Tuesday’s announcement comes five days after the province officially began Phase 1 of its relaunch plan for Alberta’s economy. The government said Travel Alberta is also working on steps to support local tourism organizations but said those plans will be announced at a later date.

“The tourism industry and our accommodations providers were dramatically and suddenly hard hit by the impacts of COVID-19,” said Royce Chwin, the CEO of Travel Alberta.

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“These businesses play a critical role in the traveller experience and will be essential in the restart of Alberta’s visitor economy.”

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Despite the tourism levy announcement, the Alberta government said accommodation providers are still expected by law to file returns throughout 2020. It also noted that hotels should expect to “resume regular tourism levy payments in 2021.”

According to the provincial government, the hospitality sector employs about 30,000 Albertans.

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