Photo: Dan Harper

WINNIPEG – The 2018 preliminary operating budget tabled today at a special meeting of Executive Policy Committee is proposing to further build Winnipeg’s reputation and pride by bolstering the Special Events Marketing Fund as well as developing a multi-year downtown safety strategy through a more strategic distribution of the accommodation tax Mayor Brian Bowman announced today.

Mayor Bowman said Winnipeg has hosted many different national and international events over the last few years including the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the Grey Cup Festival, the Heritage Classic, a Pro Challenge Tennis Tournament, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Annual Conference and Trade Show, and just this summer welcomed over 4,000 athletes and coaches and more than 20,000 visitors to one of the most successful Canada Summer Games events in years.

“Winnipeg is becoming more and more a destination rather than a departure point,” said Mayor Bowman. “We need to keep this momentum going, and by enhancing our efforts to attract regional, national, and international events we can continue building Winnipeg’s reputation and pride.”

The accommodation tax represents a five percent levy on hotel room accommodations within the City of Winnipeg. The by-law establishing the accommodation tax came into effect on June 1, 2008. Last year, the tax generated $9.1 million in revenue all of which is deposited into the Destination Marketing Reserve.

The Destination Marketing Reserve is then used to fund Economic Development Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Convention Centre’s operations and capital expansion, and the Special Events Marketing Fund which is used to attract regional, national, and international events to Winnipeg.

Currently, only about 11 percent of accommodation tax revenue, or $1 million, is distributed through the Special Events Marketing Fund. The 2018 preliminary budget proposes to bolster this allocation by more than doubling it to 25 percent. It also recommends that the Manitoba Hotel Association together with Economic Development Winnipeg develop an enhanced tourism and events strategy and criteria for the expanded component of the funding.

Mayor Bowman emphasized that tourism is a significant contributor to Winnipeg’s economy. When people visit the city, they spend money at hotels, restaurants, concerts, hockey games, and transportation. When the city is able to attract large scale events like the Canada Summer Games or the Heritage Classic, these events can pay signficant dividends to local businesses across the city.

In addition to bolstering the Special Events Marketing Fund, the 2018 preliminary budget recommends the development of a multi-year downtown public safety strategy using funds available in the Destination Marketing Reserve.

It recommends that the Public Service prepare a report within 120 days outlining a strategy that includes enhanced outreach services, expanded foot patrols, and other security initiatives, and that it be developed in consultation with the Manitoba Hotel Association, the Downtown BIZ, the Winnipeg Police Service, and the United Nations Safe Cities Committee of Council.

“Despite the significant progress our city has made in reducing the crime rate, public safety remains a concern for many residents, and some still consider our downtown more unsafe than other parts of the city,” said Mayor Bowman. “We need to continue working to address the safety concerns many of our residents have.”

In addition to developing a downtown safety strategy, the Mayor noted the 2018 preliminary budgets also propose an increase to the Winnipeg Police Service of approximately $3.5 million or 1.2 percent from last year’s budget to support public safety across the city.