Frequently Asked Questions
We are an independent, non-profit society managed by an elected tourism sector board of directors, who provide oversight of government funding including the Municipal & Regional District Tax – MRDT and supported by professional tourism management staff. We are guided by an approved BC Societies Act constitution and bylaws and a Destination BC approved business plan and budget.
The Society is not operational at this time, no staff just one volunteer preparing for the launch. We are seeking a Regional Tourism Organization General Manager to develop and execute the SGITP strategic business plan, foster relationships with tourism operators and community leaders on Mayne Island, Pender Island, Saturna Island, Galiano Island and Salt Spring Island to advance our vision, mission and goals. Once we are fully operational we will be actively reaching out to all our constituents including communities which all hospitality businesses are part of. Initial funding has come from the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation through the Labour Market Partnership program. This funding will offset research into the Region’s hospitality sector’s workforce needs.
In addition to the MRDT, SGITPS receives modest funding from local government. However, as a non-profit society, SGITPS has access to a variety of grants and similar funding from a variety of sources. In fact before any MRDT funds have been received, SGITPS has received grants that will assist the society in achieving many of the goals in the strategic plan. At the moment SGITPS is conducting a number of surveys so we may finally have some evidence-based facts about our Island visitors and our workforce.
The Provincial Government introduced the Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT) in 1987 to fund local responsible tourism marketing, programs, and projects. In the Southern Gulf Islands, this is a 2% tax paid by visitors when they stay at short-term accommodations.
The Southern Gulf Islands Tourism Partnership incorporated as a Society on January 7, 2019 as the local non-profit organization to administer the funds contributed by these visitors to manage and market tourism locally. The Partnership received their first MRDT taxes in November 2019 and hired a General Manager in January 2020.
The Southern Gulf Island Partnership Society is committed to the following principles that drive the MRDT program:
- Managing our tourists and visitors within the constraints of our resources through proactive marketing programs, and projects that make sense to our local communities and businesses
- Engaging with local stakeholders and supporting inter-community collaboration
- Aligning with Destination BC initiatives
- Being fiscally prudent and accountable
The Southern Gulf Island Tourism Partnership will also pursue projects to support local affordable housing as it was added as a permissible use of MRDT funds in the 2018 Provincial Budget.
The implementation of a 2 % tax on the purchase of accommodation within the islands in Capital Regional District Electoral Areas F and G under the municipal and regional district tax program is in effect beginning on September 1, 2019. The Ministry of Finance staff will send notice of the tax’s implementation to accommodation providers in the designated accommodation area.
The first funds from the MRD tax began arriving in SGITPS’ account in November 2019.
As laid out in our five-year plan most efforts will focus on off-season months unless individual Islands need to do some special target promotions for their island.
As visits to the Southern Gulf Islands have grown over the years it became apparent that we needed to be more pro-active in the way we managed our tourism. The MRD tax is a Destination BC program that allows regions to charge visitors a tax that is remitted to designated tourism entity, in our case SGITPS. This funding comes from visitors and is sustainable.
In past years, commercially zoned properties and properties with 4 rooms or more collected the PST/Hotel Tax of 8%. They also collected the MRDT if it was implemented in the region. In October 2018 the BC government modified the rules so that all accommodators earning more than $2500 annually will collect these taxes. Some of the 8% tax, which goes to the provincial coffers, does get reinvested into tourism programs but this varies from year to year. All the MRD tax comes back to the local tourism entity to accomplish their plans for their region.
One of the misunderstandings for our region is the perception that we have a lot of tourists. Our legal tourism properties such as hotel, motels, resorts and B&B’s add about 3500 to 4000 visitors to our regional population on any given summer day. However, there are another 5,000 or so visitors using their second homes our Islands. These are used personally or are rented out. Additionally, we have a large number of homes rented out as short-term vacation rentals (STVR’s) in the summer, which are not zoned for this purpose. In recent years with online booking platforms there are also a large number of pop-up accommodations offering space in the summer. We are not certain how many extra visitors come to the Islands and stay in these facilities but rough estimates are in excess of 5,000 for the region. And of course, we have the added workforce that comes for the season to serve the increase in visitors. Then we have day-trippers, bus tours, and marine traffic staying at marinas, campers and so on. Clearly we need to reduce the oversupply of accommodations in the summer season and create more reason to visit in the remainder of the year.