Tourism Sta­tus Report

BC Business Magazine - - Front Page - by Nathan Cad­dell, Nick Rockel and Fel ici ty S tone

Whether it’s your first visit or your 15th sum­mer stay­ca­tion, B.C. is one of the world’s best places to be a tourist. But what is the tourism in­dus­try? For Walt Ju­das, it comes back to the guy in Si­ca­mous who fu­els house­boats. “He’s in the tourism in­dus­try but op­er­ates a gas sta­tion,” says the CEO of the Tourism In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion of BC ( TIABC).

Ju­das, whose not-for-profit group rep­re­sents 20 sec­tor as­so­ci­a­tions cov­er­ing every­thing from taxis and hotels to fish­ing re­sorts and ski ar­eas, points out that many peo­ple don’t know they work in tourism. “It’s this col­lec­tion of sec­tors that come to­gether un­der the um­brella of tourism, and the power of those sec­tors is what makes us such a for­mi­da­ble force.”

No kid­ding. Us­ing data from Sta­tis­tics Canada, BC Stats tracks the eco­nomic value of tourism for Des­ti­na­tion Bri­tish Columbia Corp., the Crown agency that mar­kets the in­dus­try and pro­motes its de­vel­op­ment. In 2016, B.C. tourism rev­enue—money re­ceived by busi­nesses, in­di­vid­u­als and gov­ern­ments—to­talled $17 bil­lion, a jump of al­most 8 per­cent over 2015. That year, more than 19,000 tourism- re­lated busi­nesses em­ployed some 133,000 peo­ple.

The in­dus­try con­trib­uted $7.9 bil­lion to the provin­cial econ­omy in 2016, as mea­sured through gross do­mes­tic prod­uct in con­stant 2007 dol­lars. That’s a 5.6-per­cent in­crease from the pre­vi­ous year—and more than min­ing, forestry and log­ging, or agri­cul­ture and fish.

B.C. tourism may be in good health, but chal­lenges lie ahead, Ju­das ad­mits. With the in­dus­try con­fronting a labour short­age, he wants more young peo­ple to con­sider tourism as a life­long ca­reer. Although sev­eral post-sec­ondary in­sti­tu­tions of­fer train­ing, many stu­dents come from abroad and re­turn home af­ter grad­u­a­tion, Ju­das says, while B.C. res­i­dents from the pro­grams of­ten end up work­ing in other in­dus­tries. “How do we re­tain those and get past the per­cep­tion that tourism is only about low-skilled and low-pay­ing jobs?” he asks. “There are many ca­reers in tourism that are, in fact, life­long ca­reers.”

Hous­ing is an­other pres­sure point—and not just be­cause it’s un­af­ford­able. In smaller com­mu­ni­ties, “it’s one thing to at­tract some­one to work at your re­sort,” Ju­das says. “It’s quite an­other to have

Metro Van­cou­ver wel­comed a record 10.3 mil­lion overnight vis­i­tors last year, Tourism Van­cou­ver re­ports, and there are plenty more on the way. By 2030, in­ter­na­tional tourist ar­rivals world­wide will reach 1.8 bil­lion

ac­com­mo­da­tion avail­able for them.” That short­age is mostly thanks to land­lords favour­ing va­ca­tion rentals over long-term ten­ants, Ju­das ar­gues. “Con­se­quently there isn’t a place for em­ploy­ees to stay, and that’s prob­lem­atic.”

Ju­das also cites the clash be­tween adventure tourism op­er­a­tors and in­dus­tries such as forestry and min­ing over use of Crown land. “You have ten­ure hold­ers in tourism that are of­ten usurped by nat­u­ral re­source sec­tors,” he says, calling for both sides to ac­com­mo­date each other. “One of our goals is to en­sure that tourism is a part of ev­ery dis­cus­sion when there are land use plan­ning is­sues or tax­a­tion or other things that would im­pact our in­dus­try, which is largely made up of small-busi­ness op­er­a­tors.”

En­vi­ron­men­tally and so­cially sus­tain­able tourism is a hot topic, notes Mar­sha Walden, pres­i­dent and CEO of Des­ti­na­tion BC. (That’s good news, given a re­cent Aus­tralian study show­ing that the in­dus­try con­trib­utes 8 per­cent of all green­house gas emis­sions.) For B.C., it means “mak­ing sure that the prod­ucts we have are meet­ing global expectations on the green front,” Walden ex­plains, “but also that the way we in­tro­duce and move tourists around our prov­ince meets social expectations of our own res­i­dents—that we con­tinue to be a very wel­com­ing en­vi­ron­ment be­cause we’re not over­whelm­ing com­mu­ni­ties with too many tourists.”

Metro Van­cou­ver wel­comed a record 10.3 mil­lion overnight vis­i­tors last year, Tourism Van­cou­ver re­ports, and there are plenty more on the way. By 2030, in­ter­na­tional tourist ar­rivals world­wide will reach 1.8 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions’ World Tourism Or­ga­ni­za­tion, ver­sus 940 mil­lion in 2010.

“It spells enor­mous op­por­tu­nity for the tourism in­dus­try, and par­tic­u­larly for Bri­tish Columbia, which is so well po­si­tioned to cap­ture two of the biggest trav­el­ling pop­u­la­tions in the world, the Amer­i­cans and the Chi­nese,” Walden says. “And so we’re in an en­vi­able po­si­tion, but we also need to man­age how that im­pacts our prov­ince eco­nom­i­cally and so­cially.” –N.R.

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