Tourism Victoria Rallies Membership

Tourism Victoria’s annual sales and marketing showcase drew a large crowd eager for some good news to the Inner Harbour Marriott on Jan. 27.

TVic president and CEO Rob Gialloreto rallied the membership with a brisk, enthusiastic address tempered by acknowledgment of the painfully slow economic recovery plaguing Canada, the U.S., and many other markets crucial to the city’s “visitor economy,” as Gialloreto is fond of portraying it.

“The economy is a little better but we’re far from out of the woods,” he said. “We need to understand that we’re seeing a very slow pace of growth and recovery. It’s going to be a slow process.”

Although tourism took a heavy hit in 2009-10, Gialloreto pointed out developments achieved during the recession that are laying the groundwork for a turnaround this year and, with a little luck, a full rebound and then some in 2012. Tourism Victoria made inroads with short-haul markets such as Edmonton, Calgary, and Washington State, where a partnership with the Seattle tourism board produced a reciprocal advertising agreement. The organization also took advantage of Victoria International’s non-stop flights to San Francisco to forge a campaign with the 49ers NFL team.

Rob GialloretoSuch arrangements, Gialloreto said, are “very effective but also very affordable.” He returned several times to the theme of partnerships as a way to deal with budgetary restrictions that prevent large expenditures on advertising and promotions tailored to specific markets. One of the biggest of these partnerships was sealed when Canada achieved preferred destination status with China. Victoria has already enjoyed the benefits of this development, Gialloreto said, adding that the city will start to see large groups of Chinese tourists arriving once again in less than six weeks.

Baby boomers are another key demographic for Tourism Victoria, Gialloreto said, arguing that technology is changing the way they travel — and making it more difficult to get them coming back year after year. Many of them are not ready to retire and are highly adventurous. They’re not looking for specific destinations so much anymore, instead turning to “experiences” as their main criterion for travel decisions. When they search the Internet for vacation possibilities, they are doing so on an experiential basis, not a destination basis.

“What a dynamically different world we live in,” he said. “We are in a global economy that, despite everything we’ve seen over the past two years, is still pretty healthy. But that’s a double-edged sword for us. On one hand, we have many more healthy economies to market to, and Canada would be an example of that, but on the other hand, we have tremendous competition, does Canada, B.C., and indeed Victoria, in driving tourists to our destination. For example, the amazing experiential offerings on the map in the past 10 years that didn’t exist before. It’s a competitive environment [in which] it’s become easier to reach people but more difficult to influence them.”

Peter Legge, chairman and CEO of Canada Wide Media Limited, Gialloreto, followed Gialloreto with a well-received motivational talk filled with jokes, personal anecdotes, and business wisdom. Before passing the mic, Gialloreto returned to a familiar refrain: “When you invest in the visitor economy, the benefits are undeniable.”

Photo: Cruise ship at Ogden Point, by Malcolm Macbride, courtesy of Tourism Victoria.