Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Sask: Small town hotels dying

The executive director of the Saskatchewan Hotels Association is reporting that 23 hotels have closed in the last couple years. For so many small towns this is really bad news. In modern-day rural Saskatchewan, hotels are often the grocery store, post office, and primary social gathering place.

They are also reporting that their market share of beer sales has dropped by some 20 per cent. The reasons for the decline of the rural hotel are many, but some of the big ones are policy related. The province-wide smoking ban has really had an impact on hotels, especially in areas near the reserves that allow smoking (not all do). Of course there are also significant challenges resulting from declining population, and there isn't a lot we can do about that.

But what we can do is give them a hand up by allowing them to grow and diversify their business. Privatizing liquor stores would do exactly that. When Alberta privatized theirs, some 40 communities came to have liquor stores that had no service under the public system. Across the board the number of liquor retailers quadrupled.

Short of privatizations, as both of our political parties are too squeemish to do it, they should at least give private beer stores a discount so they can compete on price with government stores.

1 comment:

John Murney said...

I can't help but think cutting or eliminating the liquor tax would also help.
For what it is worth, the decline of rural Saskatchewan is appalling.
The loss of small town hotels is a disaster - who would ever have thought that these hotels would not be able to survive?

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