The City of Victoria has picked a “tough time” to raise downtown parking rates for sightseeing businesses, says the head of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s a significant expense for all those operators,” Bruce Carter, Chamber chief executive officer, said Friday.
Fee increases would apply to horse-drawn carriages, pedicabs and tour buses.
Higher rates would include sightseeing-vehicle parking stands on Belleville and Government streets, plus stands on Menzies Street for horse-drawn carriages.
The new schedule would increase fees at Government Street stands by 45 per cent to $21,060 a year from $14,509; Belleville stands by 120 per cent to $14,040 from $6,369; and each horse-drawn carriage stand by 32 per cent to $14,040 from $10,598.
Carter said, “It’s a tough time to do that. It’s a significant expense for all those operators and we are seeing delegate days at the Conference Centre to about 88,000 for this year, from high of about 136,000 in 2007.”
Even though local hotel occupancy levels are “OK,” the “spend-per-visitor is way down. So people are being very careful with their money,” Carter said.
Sightseeing operators paying higher rates need to add a higher fee to their ticket, he said.
Victoria Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe said rates have not been increased for a decade and the aim is to create fairness for downtown businesses.
Horse-drawn carriage operators would have a lower rate of increase because they have less impact on the environment, she said.
The bylaw passed second reading last week. Individual operators and the public can comment. Thornton-Joe expects it will come back to Victoria council in March with a staff report, and said it probably will not come into effect until 2014.
Suggestions will be considered, she said.
Owners of Tally-Ho Carriage Tours and Victoria Carriage Tours are recommending the city introduce increases in stages.
The city’s third horse-drawn carriage company, Black Beauty Line, had its carriages seized by Canada Revenue Agency this week for not paying taxes owed and is not operating. A company spokesman said it has been a struggle to survive economically.
Tally-Ho owner Larry Friedlander said, “In today’s economy, any type of increase for us is not good. But I understand that they are trying to get more revenues.
“In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a huge increase. It’s not something that we can’t afford but you just keep getting squeezed by everybody.”
Katarina Gallagher, Victoria Carriage Tours owner, suggests the city allow for lower rates in the slower winter season.
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