B.C. NDP will reestablish industry-led tourism marketer

VANCOUVER – B.C. New Democrat leader Adrian Dix and tourism critic Spencer Chandra Herbert announced that a New Democrat government will restore Tourism BC as an industry-led, formula-funded provincial tourism marketer.

“We need to put marketing British Columbia back in the hands of those who do it best,” said Dix. “Since Tourism BC was eliminated as an independent agency by the Liberal government in 2009, B.C. has struggled to market itself effectively. This has contributed to the tourism downturn we have experienced across the province in the past few years.

“In 2010, the Liberal government said they would double tourism revenue by 2015, yet revenues are only just returning to pre-Olympic levels and there are still fewer tourism jobs than in 2008. Many communities across B.C. that depend upon tourism are struggling. We need to give the industry the tools it needs to revive its fortunes and provide employment and growth across the province.”

The original Tourism BC model was abruptly eliminated by the Liberal government in Aug. 2009, just six months before the 2010 Winter Olympics. The move was roundly criticized by the industry for creating chaos at a time B.C. needed to capitalize on the marketing opportunity presented by the Olympics.

Between 2008 and 2010, international overnight visitors to B.C. dropped from 4.5 million to 4.2 million. From 2007 to 2010, the number of visitors to Greater Vancouver fell from 3.6 million to just over three million.

“Stable, formula-based funding will ensure the industry is not at the mercy of annual budget decisions,” said tourism critic Spencer Chandra Herbert. “We need to put the tourism industry in charge of its own destiny and reverse the damaging drop in tourism visitors, revenues and related employment.”

Don Monsour, Founding Director of the Council of Tourism Associations, welcomed the news.

“It is good news that a tourism marketing model is being proposed that emulates the successful Tourism BC as it was originally established,” said Monsour. “Legislated formula funding and industry leadership are desperately needed in this incredibly competitive marketplace.

“I’m very pleased that the Official Opposition is supporting tourism businesses.”

Tourism BC will be funded by a portion of the provincial hotel room tax and will be overseen by a regionally-balanced board reflective of the tourism industry’s various sectors, of communities and of academic expertise.

Details of Tourism BC’s structure, governance and funding formula will be finalized in consultation with the industry. A key goal will be to ensure that provincial marketing is better integrated with regional and local efforts, as well as sectors such as aboriginal tourism.