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Despite pandemic, Orillia's hotel tax generated $346,000 in 2021 revenue

City, which now has $126,000 in tourism reserve fund, will extend its tourism partnership with Orillia and Lake Country Tourism for another year
Fairfield hotel
The new Fairfield By Marriott hotel opened for business at 8 Mulcahy Ct. last year. Hotels in Orillia and area charge a 4% municipal accommodation tax that helps fund local tourism initiatives.

The city will continue its tourism partnership with Orillia and Lake Country Tourism (OLC), after council committee agreed Monday to extend their municipal accommodation tax (MAT) agreement for another year.

The MAT applies a four per cent tax to hotels, motels, and other transient accommodations, with the bulk of its revenue allocated to promoting tourism initiatives in the city.

The current deal, which was struck in 2020 and set to expire on December 31, 2022, sees the city and OLC equally share revenue generated by the MAT.

Despite lockdowns brought on by the pandemic, the tax generated $346,844 in net revenue across 2021, a staff report stated.

City policy dictates that 60 per cent of its MAT revenue is to be spent directly on tourism initiatives, and 40 per cent is to be allocated to a tourism reserve fund. 

However, the city allocated more than 40 per cent of its generated revenue to its reserve last year, amidst uncertainty generated by the pandemic.

As a result, the city’s tourism reserve fund held a balance of roughly $126,000 at the end of 2021.

Despite this, the city spent over $46,000 through 2021 on event and tourism support, visitor information, and marketing and promotional campaigns.

Some of the initiatives undertaken by the city last year include:

  • YouTube, social media, and CTV marketing campaigns promoting the city;
  • Downtown banners; and
  • Advertisements in Canadian Travel & Lifestyle Magazine

Of the roughly $173,000 collected by OLC, $20,000 is permitted to cover the organization’s operating expenses, with the rest going into tourism initiatives. 

Some of the initiatives undertaken by OLC last year included $50,000 spent on print and digital advertising, but the organization deferred a large portion of its revenue to 2022, due in part to uncertainties brought about by COVID-19.

OLC and the city have a number of initiatives planned for the MAT in 2022, some of which include:

  • Developing a free online certification program, marketed to all Orillia businesses and employees, with six modules covering local tourism and attractions, as well as heritage and history, with the aim of developing a consistent visitor experience;
  • Partnering with Bell Media for a “Great Places to See” campaign with CTV;
  • Continuing digital campaigns through various social media platforms, aimed at various demographics, promoting Orillia as a destination;
  • Promoting Orillia as a destination for various travelling events, such as the Ontario 55+ Winter Games.

As part of their agreement, OLC is responsible for collecting the MAT.

The decision to extend the agreement between the city and OLC will need to be ratified at the next council meeting (April 25).