VISITOR INCENTIVE Changes are on the way for Tourism BC and the leader of Tourism Whistler supports the direction the changes are taking.
Three years ago, Tourism BC's Crown corporation status was changed and the organization's work became part of the provincial government's mandate.
Now, discussions are underway to create a new provincial marketing organization to attract tourists. Barrett Fisher, the president and CEO of Tourism Whistler (TW), said she supports the effort to create the new organization and has attended three meetings concerning the work being done by the Tourism Industry Association of BC (TIABC) and provincial employees in the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation.
Tourism BC's mandate is to promote development and growth in the tourism industry, to increase revenues and employment throughout B.C., and to increase the economic benefits for everyone.
The organization started operating within the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation three years ago when former premier Gordon Campbell moved the Crown corporation directly under government control.
According to Fisher, while there has been a great deal of change in the tourism industry, she said not much has changed in how TW works with Tourism BC on things like media relations, familiarization tours, sales programs, cooperation with tour operators and marketing campaigns.
While other organizations around the province have complained that Tourism BC isn't serving their needs, that isn't the case for TW, but Fisher supports the changes TIABC is working toward with the province.
"The goal is to ensure that there is an organization that is created from a funding and governance perspective that gives the provincial destination marketing organization the autonomy it needs to ensure it's got consistent funding, that it is consumer driven and industry supported," said Fisher. "From that perspective we certainly support that direction as well."
Such an organization, she added, would be protected from the political shifts that take place when new governments are elected.
Fisher has high praise for the current tourism minister: "In the Ministry of Tourism that we have today under the leardership of Minister Pat Bell, I think we've had the strongest tourism leadership in my history from a tourism perspective," said Fisher.
There are those in the tourism industry who don't agree with Fisher and feel Tourism BC isn't doing a good enough job promoting the province's $13 billion industry. One piece of evidence critics point to is the fact that Tourism BC's annual budget is less than the $65.4 million that Alberta spends through Travel Alberta. The extra spending in Alberta appears to be working as our neighbours to the east have seen growth in visits from the U.S. and around the world, while foreign travel to B.C. has declined over the past decade.
Fisher said the current work in B.C. is heading in the right direction.
"It needs to be accountable, it needs to be transparent and it needs to be customer driven," said Fisher of the new organization that's being put together to help develop the tourism industry.