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No tax money for legal fees: Hospitality association president

Penticton Hospitality Association president Rob Appelman said the association will not use hotel room tax funds to pay legal bills in its dispute with the city.
January 10, 2014 - 1:45 PM

PENTICTON - The Penticton Hospitality Association hasn't spent any taxpayer money on legal fees in its battle with the city over marketing funding but board members feel so strongly, they are prepared to spend its own money on the fight if it comes to that, according to board leadership.

The city stripped the association control of the $400,000 in annual funding on Oct. 31 but association president Rob Appelman and operations director Tim Hodgkinson said there is more to the story than councillors and Mayor Garry Litke are letting on.

"When the city issued their attempt at a termination letter (to reassign funding control) it was prudent of us to seek legal advice," Hodgkinson said. "No legal action has happened yet." 

After the city declared it would transfer control of the two per cent hotel room tax from the association to Tourism Penticton, the association engaged a Kelowna law firm. If it comes to a court battle the association is prepared to spend its own money, made up of membership fees from the hotels and motels it represents, Appelman said.

The city gave control of the funding to Tourism Penticton, saying the association didn't effectively market the city. The two men disagree with this assessment. They said 2013 was a great year with full hotels and restaurants, thanks to their targeted spending.

Appelman, who owns the Lakeside Villa Motel, said last year his business did very well and his staff were having trouble finding rooms for anxious tourists. Hodgkinson said the conflict boils down to where the money is best spent. Appelman says the money is best used to market the city to its historical customer base—low to middle income families looking for Penticton beaches. The association wants to grow this base and target niche markets.

Since Oct. 31 when the city took action, the association has continued to promote the city to outside markets using whatever hotel room tax funding they have left in the bank.

"It's not going to dry up next week," Hodgkinson said and there is enough to continue marketing the city for the foreseeable future. And he and Appelman hope this disagreement with the city over the funding comes to an end sooner rather than later.

One criticism they did agree on was communication. The two men acknowledge they haven't done enough to tell media and others what the association was doing—and on this issue, in particular.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Quesnel at squesnel@infotelnews.ca, call 250-488-3065 or tweet @InfoNewsPentict.

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