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Tourism Whistler lobbies to keep GST rebate

Competitive edge lost without rebate, president says

A handful of Tourism Whistler’s board members met with local MP Blair Wilson in their efforts to lobby against elimination of the GST rebate for travellers.

The Feb. 23 meeting was arranged as the deadline nears for the elimination of the Visitor Rebate Program, which allows Canadian visitors to reclaim GST on accommodation and some eligible retail. The program will be abolished on April 1 as part of the federal government’s spending restraint measures.

Tourism Whistler, among other tourism organizations, has been lobbying against the elimination.

In an October letter Tourism Whistler’s President, Barrett Fisher, and chair of the board, Rick Clare, outlined their concerns to Wilson.

Among other things they said the rebate program adds to Canada’s competitiveness as a destination. Removal of the program will have enormous effects on convention business, they said, as the program is used as a sales incentive in Whistler, where convention business makes up 30 per cent of the room nights sold in the resort.

The letter states: “…The elimination of the GST/HST Visitor Rebate Program could have a more significant long-term impact on Canada’s $62.7 billion tourism economy than any other development in the past 10 years, including 9/11 and SARS.”

Wilson met with Fisher, Clare, and board members Stuart Rempel and Scott Taber.

An online petition to the Hon. James Flaherty, Minister of Finance, to save the VRP now has more than 7,800 signatures. The Tourism Industry Association of Canada is spearheading the petition.