Off the Record: Tipping the tax scales to give tourism a break

Businesses that cater to visitors are as important as the hot springs or Lake Windermere Whiteway.

Being a community that naturally entices tourism, businesses that cater to visitors are as important as the hot springs or Lake Windermere Whiteway.

Most tourist destinations have some sort of natural element to attract visitors, but they still depend on the health of their business community.

Organizations offering essential services are critical to residents, but it’s not as easy for them to add value to a tourist’s visit.

In many cases, it’s hard to imagine that entrepreneurs who are in the business of leisure, entertainment, or delicious food are seeing the same financial rewards as their counterparts who cater to the fundamentals of daily life.

Being sandwiched between two mountains ranges — with a hot springs pool on either end of Lake Windermere — gives the valley good reason to rely on tourism. But as technology and public policies evolve, some businesses will have a tough time adapting. E-commerce has hindered retailers; safety regulations have reduced opportunities for temporary vendors, and the days of film are nearly over.

Nobody was happy to see the Toby Theatre close its doors. A vintage movie theatre may not have been our anchor attraction, but it was a large part of the valley’s culture.

Arbitrary tax relief might seem like the government is siding with members of a business community, negating the free market. But a healthy tourism industry is essential in places like the valley, where it contributes a significant amount to the local economy.

Should a “tourism tax break” exist, the government would collect less from certain businesses, but if the enterprises could keep their doors open longer, tourists would have more of a reason to visit.

The taxman might be grabbing a smaller slice, but he’ll be eating from a bigger pie.

On the other hand, the Regional District of East Kootenay, the province of B.C. as well as municipal governments in the valley, use that tax money to promote tourism — and they do a great job. Nonetheless, an old-school movie theatre could be part of a pretty cool promotion.

Dan Walton is a reporter for The Valley Echo and can be reached at