Crowds gathered on the lake front and at the beach stage for art and music during the first afternoon of the 39th annual Harrison Festival of the Arts in Harrison Hot Springs. Places like Harrison Hot Springs will be getting more money for tourism-related infrastructure projects. (The Observer file)

Province announces $2.5-million boost to increase tourism in B.C.’s resort towns

Changes to RMI funding are bringing more money to places like Harrison and Tofino

Resort municipalities across B.C. will be getting some extra money for infrastructure projects, after the provincial government announced an additional $2.5 million in funds for 2019-20.

The 2019 provincial budget promised to invest $39 million over three years for the resort municipality initiative (RMI), a fund that supports infrastructure projects to increase tourism in resort towns. (These towns include Fernie, Golden, Harrison Hot Springs, Invermere, Kimberley, Osoyoos, Radium Hot Springs, Revelstoke, Rossland, Sun Peaks, Tofino, Ucluelet, Valemount and Whistler.)

In the past, the RMI was not part of the Ministry of Tourism Arts and Culture’s core budget, although spending averaged about $10.5 million a year. With the changes to the RMI funds, spending will be $13 million a year for 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22.

RELATED: Outdoor rink, lagoon improvements on the agenda for Harrison

“B.C.’s tourism industry creates opportunities for people to see shows and pursue recreation right in their own backyards, as well as providing good-paying jobs and economic development,” Lisa Beare, minister of tourism, arts and culture, said in a press release.

“We listened to industry feedback and have made changes that will better support communities in developing larger and more impactful tourism plans.”

In addition to the increased funds, the government has also changed the funding formula in an attempt to put all fourteen municipalities on “equal footing,” with a minimum amount of $100,000 for each community.

The RMI will also now look at the performance of funded projects to increase tourism in the municipality, with the possibility of increased funding for well-performing communities. This will be determined using the hotel tax collected by each municipality, and will be on top of the base funding.

“Each community is based on the investments they’ve made with the RMI money. If that’s showing some return on investment, that’s why you get a performance based lift,” Harrison Hot Springs community services coordinator Rhonda Schell said. “Because they want you to be investing in projects that are actually drawing in tourists.”

Each community had to submit a resort development strategy outlining their desired projects to the province on March 15. Typically, according to Schell, the communities hear back about the results of their funding in mid-summer.



grace.kennedy@ahobserver.com

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