31 MAR 2016: Participating hotels in Toronto and Mississauga are adding an extra charge at check-out time; a fee that goes toward promoting the two cities as tourism destinations. The charge has been met with criticism for guests not being advised of the fee and not being told that it is technically voluntary.

The Greater Toronto Hotel Association (GTHA) has been administering a Destination Marketing Programme (since 2010) collecting fees for Tourism Toronto. In 2014 it reported collecting $17.5 million for the City of Toronto.

The GTHA states on their website, Marketing is the lifeblood of tourism.  People won’t come to a city if they don’t know about it.  The funding generated by the Destination Marketing Programme will ensure that Toronto and Mississauga are able to tell millions of people about the many great things our cities have to offer and the terrific experiences you can enjoy.”

In Ontario, DMPs are voluntary industry-led initiatives that have existed in several destinations at different points in time since 2004. Destination Marketing Fees and Voluntary Marketing Fees (VMFs) are terms used interchangeably to describe an amount charged by providers of transient accommodation in a destination or region, for the purpose of supporting regional tourism marketing and development.

The DMP is supported by the Ontario tourism ministry, which encourages transparency and states that the fee has to be disclosed prior to the booking so consumers know to expect it.

The charge cannot be buried in with the taxes.  It must be identified as a separate fee.

Hotel staff must be trained to ensure that they understand and can explain the fee, in particular that the fee is not a government tax or levy.

The fact that it isn’t a government tax means that the charge can be refused, and if it is assigned without permission, guests can dispute it.

As always, consumers are well advised to read their receipts thoroughly.

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