Province launches Destination BC 

New tourism marketing agency created with industry input over 18-month consultation period

click to enlarge PHOTO BY STEVE ROGERS, TOURISM WHISTLER - VACATION ADVOCATES A new Crown corporation called Destination BC is being created by the provincial government to head up tourism marketing initiatives aimed at boosting the industry in Whistler and around B.C. Events like Cornucopia, on this week, will benefit from increased exposure.
  • Photo by Steve Rogers, Tourism Whistler
  • VACATION ADVOCATES A new Crown corporation called Destination BC is being created by the provincial government to head up tourism marketing initiatives aimed at boosting the industry in Whistler and around B.C. Events like Cornucopia, on this week, will benefit from increased exposure.

Tourism BC 2.0 has arrived. British Columbia's replacement for the old government-operated tourism marketing organization is now called Destination BC.

Premier Christy Clark announced on Monday, Nov. 5 that the provincial government is creating a new Crown corporation to work with tourism organizations around the province to market B.C. as a tourist destination.

Pat Bell, the minister of jobs, tourism and skills training, told reporters during a conference call following the announcement of Destination BC that there were all kinds of concerns with Tourism BC in 2009.

"There was a lack of representation in the regions, there was concerns with regards to transparency, how money was being spent, the remuneration of the CEO," said Bell. "There were a number of significant concerns."

Bell told reporters that in the time between the demise of Tourism BC and Destination BC, the provincial government has collaboratively and effectively worked with industry to promote tourism.

He said he didn't think any tourism revenue was lost due to the way tourism promotion was moved from a Crown corporation into government control and is being moved back to a Crown corporation.

Barrett Fisher of Tourism Whistler (TW) was on hand for the announcement at the B.C. Tourism and Hospitality Conference. Fisher said there are a few key differences between Destination BC and Tourism BC.

According to Fisher, Destination BC is being set up in such a way that it will be accountable and it will engage the tourism industry. Fisher said Destination BC is being given enough independence to make "customer driven decisions," adding that its new make up prevents it from suffering sector or geographic inequalities.

"It's going to be looked at from a business perspective," said Fisher.

The organization will be driven by the highest and greatest return on investment for the province as a whole, according to Fisher. She added that a task force made up of tourism representatives was created and that the organization gathered feedback from industry on how the provincial government could better serve the sector. Fisher said the task force consulted with her in three separate meetings.

Dave Brownlie, the president and CEO of Whistler Blackcomb (WB), said he is very pleased with the new Crown corporation and the direction tourism promotion will take in B.C.

He's happy that the Crown corporation is going to be run by a board of directors made up of a variety of people. Some of the board members won't be directly connected to the tourism industry while others will be actively involved in the sector.

"That gives them that much more of a global view," said Brownlie, who was part of the consultation process as a member of a committee put together by the tourism ministry.

"They listened to the feedback from the industry and they made the changes we wanted," Brownlie said of the premier and Bell.

The creation of this tourism body was part of Clark's commitment during the BC Liberal Party leadership race. Her commitment was reiterated in The BC Jobs Plan and in Gaining The Edge, the provincial government's tourism strategy.

The provincial government invited the Tourism Industry Association of BC (TIABC) to create a task force and provide the government with options for a new tourism marketing organization. One of the TIABC options presented to government was chosen.

"Our government is listening to members of the tourism industry," said Clark when she announced Destination BC.

"What's most exciting about this new organization is that it was designed by tourism operators who know first-hand how a tourism marketing organization should be structured to help them grow their industry and create jobs."

Said Bell, "There's been a year and a half of work that has gone into this."

He added that other government tourism marketing organizations from around the world were checked out in that time as part of the process of creating Destination BC. According to Bell, many similar organizations are government-controlled. The model chosen for use in B.C. was one recommended by the TIABC, Bell reiterated.

The new tourism organization will promote tourism opportunities in B.C. to the world, do research and offer training based on the government's tourism policy.

According to a news release announcing the new direction, the province will outline the new Crown corporation's mandate and "high-level expectations" in a Letter of Expectation and the government will approve the organization's goals, objectives and performance measures.

The province will also have final say over how much Destination BC executives are to be paid and the compensation levels for the organization's board of directors.

Bell said the first year budget for Destination BC will be set at $48.7 million then in the second and following years the corporation's budget will be set based on a percentage of annual sales tax.

The new corporation was established Nov. 2 and will move into full operation on April 1, 2013.

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