TOURISM NEWS: Surrey Board of Trade Calls for Modernized GST Rebate Program to Increase Tourism Industry

The Surrey Board of Trade is calling on the Federal Government to seize an opportunity to strengthen Canada’s tourism industry by reintroducing a streamlined visitor rebate program, allowing visitors to be exempt from a sales tax on purchases above a certain amount as long as they present their passport, Nexus, or Driver’s License at point of purchase.

In a recent position paper composed by the Surrey Board of Trade and its Tourism, Arts & Culture Team, they are further calling for the elimination of GST for tourism-related hotel stays and restaurant visits, for purchases above a certain amount.

In the 1990s, the Visitor Rebate Program allowed visitors in Canada to receive a sales tax rebate on items purchased during their travels, including goods bought to take home and money spent on short-term accommodation. The Federal Government phased out the program in 2007, citing excessive costs and underutilization.

However, a recent report from the Retail Council of Canada shows that the program’s cancellation has resulted in a GDP loss of nearly $6 billion.

By reintroducing a modernized visitor rebate program, the demand for tourism could increase by $595.7 million per year.

“Tourism equals jobs,” said Anita Huberman, CEO, Surrey Board of Trade. “The tourism industry is a significant part of Canada’s economy.”

International tourism is a highly competitive business and governments in other countries have taken steps to enhance the visitor experience where Canada has not.

Many other countries use rebate programs that increase the amount of money spent within the country. If a shop owner does not have to provide GST to the government, more money can be spent at the establishment. Tourists have a strict budget. For example, since implementing a new on-site visitor sales tax exemption, Japan’s tourism exports have more than doubled in just 4 years. While almost all OECD countries have enjoyed an increase in tourism exports over the last decade, Canada ranks 32 out of 36 for growth, while Japan ranks third.

The Surrey Board of Trade will be engaging this Summer Season with MPs and Canada’s Tourism Minister to reinstate the rebate program.

To view the policy submission click here.


For more information, contact Anita Huberman at 604-634-0342 or