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Who else but a government backpeddling like mad could look at an agreement that institutes at least a 25 per cent reduction in funding and say it had "secured funding to promote the development and growth of B.C.’s growing tourism sector"? Another casualty of Premier Glen Clark’s "wriggle room" — that little space he needed for minor adjustments to the balanced budget he introduced last spring — is tourism. The minor adjustments, of course, are $750 million that has to be cut from the provincial budget. Every area of government has been affected by the wriggle room, but the hit tourism is taking is way out of proportion and shows once again how little importance provincial governments really place on this industry. In December the province announced a new legislated agency — with the old name of Tourism B.C. — which is to be a partnership with the tourism industry. Funding for the new Tourism B.C. comes from 1 per cent of the provincial hotel tax, which will generate $10 million, and $6 million from the province’s general revenue. There may be up to $2 million leftover from the old Tourism B.C. which would bring the new Tourism B.C. budget close to $18 million for the first year (but it will remain at $16 million for the second and third years). Previously, the old Tourism B.C. had a budget of nearly $24 million per year, which was funded under a special operating agreement. Tourism Minister Jan Pullinger says "If the tourism industry continues to grow as it has in the past, this new funding formula could provide an even greater source of revenue in the future." But when the budget for attracting tourists has been cut by more than 25 per cent it’s hard to see a big increase in room revenue in the immediate future. Tourism B.C. is now trying to sort out how it will do more with less. The first step has been early retirements for some staff, but some marketing campaigns will undoubtedly be affected. For Whistler, the timing in light of the Vail-Ralcorp merger, is poor. The Colorado resort operator plans to spend more money on marketing its resorts — US$20 million — than the provincial government does on marketing the entire province of British Columbia. However, as Whistler Resort Association President David Thomson points out, Vail has to do it all by itself, as there are no state or federal tourism agencies for the resort company to partner with. Some might also point to Ontario and Alberta, where provincial governments have trimmed tourism marketing budgets to $8 million and $10 million respectively, and suggest that B.C. is doing fairly well for tourism funding. But that is a direct reflection of the importance those provincial governments put on the tourism industry. Quebec’s tourism marketing budget is $28 million. Tourism rarely receives the credit it deserves as an industry; cutting the Tourism B.C. budget by more than 25 per cent shows the province still has little respect for the industry.

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