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Dec. 6, 2019 | Friday
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Thomson: increased parking fee could negatively affect bus traffic to NOTL
Janice Thomson made a budget presentation to the council on Jan. 15. (Dariya Baiguzhiyeva/Niagara Now)

Town council voted to scale back the increase to local bus parking fees from $50 to $25 Monday night.

The increase still doubles the current bus parking fee of $25, bringing the total cost to $50, instead of the proposed $70, recommended in a staff report.

During a committee of the whole meeting Jan. 7, members of council heard the number of visitors coming to Niagara-on-the-Lake by bus dropped by about 6,000 people last year.

Janice Thomson, executive director of the local Chamber of Commerce said NOTL saw 273,436 bus passengers arrive at the motor coach parking lot in 2017. In 2018, the number dropped to 267,774.

She said the increased bus parking fee could potentially make the numbers of visitors decrease further.

In a presentation made to the committee-of-the-whole on Jan. 7, Thomson pointed to other municipalities that don’t charge any fees for tour bus parking, and warned increasing the price for NOTL could have negative consequences.

For example, the city of Toronto has 86 no-cost parking spaces for buses. Stratford, St. Jacobs and the Ontario Science Centre also do not charge for bus parking.

“If we have to take the CPI (Consumer Price Index) increase, that took us to $26 from $25. We can explain the CPI increase but not an arbitrary increase.”

Even an increase of one dollar per person can make an impact on people, Thomson told The Lake Report.

“The tour prices are already published this year. They can’t change it now. They already signed people up for the tours,” she explained.

In a letter to the council, president of Theatre Vacations Adam Hyde expressed his concern over the potential increase.

“Based on over 40 years of experience, we anticipate that such a dramatic increase will dissuade tour buses from visiting NOTL, which will consequently compromise potential tourist dollars spend in the town,” Hyde wrote in the letter.

Thomson agreed with him.

“It’s exactly what we’re talking about. There could be a drop-off in business with such a fee increase.”

Business owners, Thomson said, are not supportive of the increase, “because there is no business reason for it.”

“It’s just an arbitrary tax on tourism. The council is looking for more money and they’re looking to take it from a source like tourism,” she said.

Hyde’s letter shared the same sentiment.

“Many of our clients spend two or three hours in Niagara-on-the-Lake and as a result are supporting the local economy through their purchases and it would be unfortunate if this potential revenue was lost,” it said.

Overall, the town invested $79,767 to the chamber’s events and activities. The biggest contribution came in the amount of $40,000 that was spent on the Icewine Festival. In regards to other events, the Town paid $6,000 and $2,000 to support Peach Celebration and Candlelight Stroll respectively.

“The Chamber strongly believes that this investment, our partnership and our operating relationship is generating a very positive return on investment that the town is realizing annually as well as supporting our members is certainly very much appreciated, and we believe that together we’re investing wisely, generating success for the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake,” said Thomson.

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