The tourism industry needs to present a unified voice if it is going to address federal policies that affect business and increase visitor traffic to Canada, according to David Goldstein, the chief executive of the Tourism Association of Canada (TIAC).
“We are the most regulated, non-regulated businesses,” says Goldstein, speaking at the Tourism Town Hall meeting on April 23 at the Coast Victoria Harbourside Hotel. “We may not have a regulatory body but we have 15 different departments and agencies at the federal level who are all setting policies that impact your business.”
Around 80 members of Victoria’s tourism industry, along with some elected officials, attended the Tourism Town Hall — one of 13 such events across the country by TIAC, which advocates on behalf of the Canadian tourism industry, and the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC), the federal organization that markets Canada to visitors. The event was held to give tourism operators insight into how TIAC and the CTC are working to sharpen Canada’s global competitiveness and increase international visitation, particularly from the United States.
Paul Nursey, president and CEO of Tourism Victoria, says the local tourism operators did get a deeper understanding of the national issues that affect the tourism business and how that directly holds their business potential back.
“We need to get behind these critical national issues along with the local issues and make our voices heard,” Nursey says. “A lack of federal support for tourism marketing, antiquated visa policy and an outdated aviation policy are not just theoretical, they affect the bottom line of local businesses and are becoming ballot box issues. What came through loud and clear is that tourism has the votes…. All levels of government have to take tourism seriously. ”
Along with the issues of access, policy and marketing, a big concern addressed at the town hall was the lack of a national advertising campaign in the U.S. since funding was cut in 2012. Visits from the U.S., Canada’s largest tourism Market, have been on the decline since 2001, but both TIAC and the CTC believe it is poised for a rebound with the proper connectivity strategy.
“If we get the Canada brand and the Canada message into this target audience in a very strategic, creative way, we can certainly move the needle,” says Jon Mamela, CTC vice-president. “There is a sizable audience, around 33.5 million U.S. consumers, from all regions of the United States, who have a keen interest in getting to Canada on vacation in the near future. It is our closest market where we have the opportunity to tap into that interest and awareness.”
To reach out to this pool of potential visitors, the CTC and TIAC are encouraging the industry to voice their support for the proposed “Connecting America,” a co-investment model marketing initiative into the United States to increase international visitation in the immediate term.
If TIAC gets the funding for the Connecting America program, B.C. could see $340 million in increased tourism spending in 2015.