KPMG study figures provide municipality with leverage 

Anyone wondering how it is Whistler supports so many real estate agents when there have been so few new properties come on the market in recent years need only look at some of the statistics in the KPMG report on the economic impact Whistler has on the provincial economy.

For the calendar year 2000 there were 1,557 real estate transactions in Whistler.

The point of the KPMG study, which was commissioned by the One Whistler group, is that those 1,557 real estate transactions produced $10 million in property transfer tax – for the province.

The study was commissioned by One Whistler – which includes the municipality, Tourism Whistler, Whistler-Blackcomb and local businesses – to provide evidence to Victoria that it is benefiting from Whistler’s success while Whistler needs more "financial tools" to pay for infrastructure and services used by residents and tourists.

The main findings of the study were released last month:

• Tourist spending by visitors to Whistler was $1.035 billion in 2000, compared to total tourism revenue for the province of $9.474 billion. Whistler accounted for 10.9 per cent of all tourism revenue in B.C.;

• Visitors to Whistler are estimated to have supported 21,470 full-year equivalent jobs in 2000, of which only 14,200 were in Whistler. Salaries and wages paid, directly and indirectly, are estimated at $529 million;

• The estimated direct and indirect government revenues generated by tourism spending in Whistler are $167.9 million for the federal government, $175.6 million for Victoria and $32.9 million for municipal governments, for a total of $376.4 million.

The study also found that Whistler produced $795.6 million in direct and indirect value-added. Value-added is one of the most commonly used indicators of economic activity. It measures economic value created through the production of goods and services. An industry’s value-added is the difference between the value of its sales and the cost of its purchases from suppliers.

Of the $795.6 million in value-added, $446.5 million is generated in Whistler and $349.1 million is generated in the rest of British Columbia. By comparison, Tourism British Columbia estimates the direct value-added generated by the tourism industry across the whole province is $4.5 billion.

The property transfer tax is another example of Whistler contributing to provincial coffers out of proportion to its size. The $10.1 million in property transfer tax generated by real estate sales in Whistler accounted for 4.1 per cent of the $245 million in property transfer tax collected in all of B.C. in 2000. By comparison, Whistler accounted for .2 per cent of the province’s population and .6 per cent of provincial housing units.

Currently municipalities’ only sources of revenue are property taxes, fees and fines. Some new financial tools are expected to be available when the provincial government passes its municipal charter later this year. Among the things being discussed are taxes on entertainment or events, establishment of municipal bylaw courts that would make it profitable for local governments to collect revenue when they take bylaw offenders to court, and public-private partnerships that would allow private enterprise access to the favourable borrowing rates enjoyed by municipalities.

Minister of State for Community Charter Ted Nebbeling said last week he hoped to introduce details of the charter by mid-April.

The KPMG study states that: "As the vast majority of the economic benefits generated by visitors to Whistler flow out of the community, and are therefore, not within Whistler’s control, unique solutions will be required to ensure Whistler maintains its competitive advantage and vitality."

The study concludes: "The contributions by Whistler to the Province of British Columbia are impressive. As a result, ongoing investment should be made in Whistler to maintain its position as a world-class destination resort."

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