Province injects additional $50 million into tourism 

Tourism B.C.’s annual budget expected to double

The B.C. government has upped the stakes for the $9.3 billion tourism industry, backing it’s challenge to the industry to double revenues by 2015 by injecting an additional $50 million this year.

On Sept. 24, the province announced a new tourism strategy to enhance marketing, resort development and community involvement in tourism decisions, while doubling marketing funding for Tourism B.C., to approximately $50 million, and providing a one-time $25 million grant to the Union of B.C. Municipalities to create a five-year marketing plan.

"This will be local governments’ money to administer and allocate, to invest and leverage for tourism infrastructure and marketing, and to make the most of all B.C. has to offer," said Premier Gordon Campbell, announcing the $25 million grant.

Tourism B.C.’s funding is currently determined as a percentage of provincial room tax revenues. The provincial tax on hotel rooms is 8 per cent; Tourism B.C. receives 1.65 per cent. In 2003-04, that represented $24.2 million for Tourism B.C.’s marketing activities.

The details are still being worked out regarding the new funding, but Tourism B.C. may see its share of the room tax double.

"The mechanics are still being looked at, what the system for accessing those funds will be, but we expect to know more in the next few weeks as we reach an agreement," said Ray LeBlond, the director of communications for Tourism B.C. "We do know that the government said they would double our funding, and that it’s intended to be an annual thing."

The next step for Tourism B.C. is to meet with their partners and determine the best way to spend that money.

"We certainly have a framework of long-term strategies on what we think would be the best way to approach our marketing opportunities, but it’s probably appropriate to talk to our partners throughout the industry and ask them what our priorities are right now, and what’s best in the long-term and short-term. We want to make sure that every dollar we spend has a maximum return of investment," said LeBlond.

The added funding puts B.C. on par financially with competing tourism groups, says LeBlond, but the province has always been able to get by with less.

"There’s two ways to look at it, and that’s that the dollars make us very competitive, giving us the ability to have a greater market presence. The second part of it is not only having greater resources, but how effectively we’ve been using them," said LeBlond. "I would argue that B.C.’s success in that department, through Tourism B.C. and other organizations, is already ahead of the competition.

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