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Tourism industry slumps after terrorist attacks



B.C.'s tourism budget will fall if visitor numbers decrease

B.C.'s tourism industry could be in serious trouble after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., according to recent statistics from Tourism B.C.

Tourism growth in the province had already flattened out before the attacks and an expected four per cent increase in tourism revenues – from $9.5 billion last year to $9.7 billion this year – will most likely disappear.

According to Tourism B.C., revenues from hotel rooms throughout the province rose by 11.1 per cent in the first quarter but that increase fell to just 1.9 per cent in the second quarter.

Overnight visitors from the U.S. increased by 5.1 per cent in the first quarter and then fell to a 1.9 per cent increase in the second quarter.

The slumping tourism numbers could be a catch-22 situation for Tourism B.C. because the Crown corporation's budget is directly linked to hotel-room taxes.

"The budget goes up and down according to the performance of the tourism sector," Tourism B.C. spokesperson Robert Moffat told Pique Newsmagazine .

The eight per cent hotel-room tax generated $1.4 billion last year. Tourism B.C. receives 1.75 per cent of that number annually. The hotel-room tax generated $24 million for Tourism B.C. last year.

Moffat said Tourism B.C.'s current budget is $26 million but that number will fall if fewer tourists visit the province.

And the industry's future outlook does not look good.

B.C. Finance Minister Gary Collins has said tourism and business travel could be affected as increased security at airports and border crossings makes travelling here more time consuming.

Americans make more than one million overnight visits to B.C. each year but many may now be considering staying at home instead of travelling.

Visitors from Washington state are the largest single source of U.S. visitors and travel dollars to B.C., accounting for 36 per cent of American revenue.

But B.C. is not the only Canadian province experiencing tourism troubles.

Alberta recorded a 15 per cent decline in its numbers this summer and that number could drop even further after the terrorist attacks. That province's tourism industry is asking the Alberta government to add another $14 million to their $21 million budget.

Recent numbers from American states also show their tourism industries are slowing down as well.

Tourism officials in Idaho, home of the well-known Sun Valley Resort, say tourists are reluctant to travel and are predicting tens of millions of dollars in losses from cancelled vacations and conferences. Tourism is a $2 billion industry in Idaho.

Tourism businesses in Utah, home of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, say cancellations due to the tourist attacks are yet another setback in what has already been a disappointing year.

Travel and tourism accounts for eight per cent – or $4.8 billion – of Utah's $60 billion economy.

B.C.'s tourism industry, which employs more than 100,000 people, contributed $4.1 billion to the province's economy last year. B.C.'s forestry industry generated $16.3 billion.

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