B.C.'s 13 destination ski resorts are joining forces and pooling resources to get the message out this year that B.C. is the best place to ski.
And government is listening.
The Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation, with help from the resorts, has tripled the marketing budget at Tourism BC from $600,000 two years ago to $1.8 million this year in an effort to mount one of the biggest province-wide ski marketing campaigns in recent years.
"It's only in the last 12 months we've got our act together," said Michael Ballingall, senior vice president at Big White Ski Resort and Silver Star resort in the Interior.
"We're speaking as one voice with the ministry and their advertising agency (Tourism BC) so we can impact with one voice what our creative looks like, what the website looks like, what our messaging looks like, what our consumer show booth looks like, what our uniforms look life, what our packages offer. The resorts are all individual and individual personalities but when you're selling against the rest of the world, it's get them to B.C. first."
Ballingall is also chair of the BC Resorts Marketing Committee, under the Canada West Ski Areas Association (CWSAA). He was speaking from New York where, this week, he is busy selling B.C. ski holidays.
Tourism Minister Pat Bell was mum on what the campaign is going to look like, only hinting at Whistler Blackcomb figuring largely in the promotions. But he didn't mince his words when it came time to talk about taking B.C.'s six million skier visits and turning that into eight, nine or even ten million visits in the coming years.
B.C. is fourth in North America, close in line behind California and Quebec, but a long way from the 12 million skier visits in Colorado.
"I am dead serious about taking full advantage of the opportunity we have in our ski industry," said Bell.
"I wouldn't say it's business at usual at all. I think we're taking a very aggressive approach to ski. It is one of the six areas that we identified in 'Gaining the Edge' — our strategy for tourism in British Columbia — and we probably set the boldest goal of all for that one, which is to become the number one skier destination in North America, which is a significant challenge given that we're a little over half of what Colorado is right now. So we need to harness all of the horses in order to achieve that goal."
The province has committed $1.55 million this year for two campaigns to promote skiing. Add to that a quarter of a million dollars from 13 ski resorts — they were enticed to the table with the promise of matching funds from the province — and you get triple the marketing dollars this year compared to two years ago.