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Destination BC gets failing grade from marketing critic

SFU professor suggests Liberals hold too much power over Crown corp



Destination BC was announced last week with great fanfare and optimism but not everybody thinks the new Crown corporation is what is needed to promote travel to B.C.

Lindsay Meredith, a marketing strategy professor at Simon Fraser University (SFU) is one person with concerns.

"From a marketing strategy standpoint, this one does not get a strong letter grade from me," Meredith said from his office at the Burnaby SFU campus a few days after Destination BC was announced.

The province is planning to appoint the corporation's board of directors while insisting on having final approval of the corporation's objectives and the government will write the wording of the corporation's business plan. These and other strategies that centralize power with the provincial government are concerns for Meredith and other industry stakeholders.

Meredith described the creation of Destination BC as a centralization move by the BC Liberal Party.

"By centralizing the power you clearly risk political agendas running off with the whole damn thing and that is always a factor whenever politicians get near budgets," said Meredith. "Take a look at the Employment BC advertisements right now. There's a legitimate concern raised that this is not about developing public knowledge about the employment job prospects or attracting new employees into programs. This is more Liberal government aggrandizement in preparation for an election.

"You risk having the whole tourism budget becoming basically another political tool used to push a political agenda, not a tourism agenda."

Meredith pointed out the timing is interesting with an election scheduled for just over six months from now.

"Any government making this move at this point in time risks having somebody like me saying, 'Is there a second issue here, is there another agenda going on?' And that becomes part of a downside," Meredith said.

MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, the B.C. NDP's tourism critic, has been expressing concerns with the way the Liberals are handling tourism promotion since he took over the portfolio in 2009.

He is currently out of the country but he told Capilano University students in September that tourism chaos set in after Tourism BC was dismantled.

"In the last four years we've had four or five deputy ministers and five ministers for tourism," Chandra Herbert told the students. "One year we had two different ministers in the same year. Without consistency, how can we move forward? Each time we have a change in leadership, the new leader needs time to learn about the industry and the files, and their portfolio. That's an issue. We need more stable positioning of tourism as a viable portfolio."

Chandra Herbert has also accused the Liberals of failing to capitalize on the lasting tourism potential of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

The move to create Destination BC was praised last week by many in the tourism sector including Tourism Whistler, Whistler Blackcomb and the Tourism Industry Association of BC.

Both Whistler Blackcomb and Tourism Whistler were part of the discussions that led to the creation of the new provincial tourism body.