Penticton tourism dispute set on back burner

Mayor confirms meeting with head of Penticton Hospitality Association after group had hotel tax funding pulled

The dispute threatening to boil over between the Penticton Hospitality Association and the City of Penticton seems to have been set to simmer at the back of the stove, at least for now.

The dispute broke into a boil at the beginning of November, when Mayor Garry Litke announced council had voted in camera to strip control of the two per cent hotel room tax — about $400,000 annually, intended for tourism marketing — from the PHA and give it to Tourism Penticton, breaking a contract signed with the association in July 2012.

Now, after lawyers for the city and the PHA have exchanged their first volley of letters, it appears Litke has reached out to the PHA in an attempt to come to agreement.

The PHA had planned a press conference for Tuesday morning, but on Monday deferred it to a future time. PHA director Tim Hodgkinson was careful to note the use of the word deferred rather than cancelled.

It turns out the press conference was put off because Rob Appelman, president of the PHA, was meeting with Litke instead. This was, Litke said, the first time the two had met in person.

“I did ask for a meeting with Mr. Appelman. We met for the  very first time on Tuesday, notwithstanding that we hadn’t made several attempts to meet in the past,” said Litke.

“We had a conversation, and we will meet again on Dec. 16.”

That is all Litke would say about the meeting, explaining that he and Appelman had agreed to keep their discussions quiet. He was also unwilling to say whether the ongoing legal action had been put on hold.

“We knew we were going to get called or asked about it, so we agreed the only comment we would make to anyone would be that we met for the very first time and that we were going to meet again.”

Litke wouldn’t even comment on the tone of the meeting, only pointing out they would be meeting again. Appelman was also reticent about the content of the meeting, though he was willing to explain it went well.

“I can say we came out with a positive feeling,” said Appelman.

While this may have been the first meeting between Litke and Appelman, it is far from the first time the city has had discussions with PHA representatives.

“Several members of council have made attempts and in fact Coun. (Wes) Hopkin was part of a mediation process where Rob (Appelman) was present. We have been in conversations with Tim (Hodgkinson) in particular since last May,” said Litke.


Penticton Western News