Resort Development Minister to elevate tourism’s profile 

Santori waiting for recommendations of resort task force, budget

At recent land use discussions around the province, proponents of tourism have been quick to point out that the resource industries, forestry and mines in particular, are well-represented in government while tourism – the second largest industry in B.C. with $10 billion in annual revenues – was not.

The provincial government, after challenging the tourism industry to double revenues by 2010, has taken steps to raise tourism’s profile.

In February of 2003, Premier Gordon Campbell announced the creation of the B.C. Resort Task Force to look at ways to enhance resort development in the province while eliminating barriers to resort development, creation and expansion.

Most recently, a new cabinet position – Minister of State for Resort Development – was created on Jan. 26. Sandy Santori, the MLA for West Kootenay-Boundary and the former Minister of State for Government Services, was given the position.

According to Santori, the new post was created in recognition of the importance of tourism and the potential for growth.

"Obviously we put forth an economic plan in this province, and we recognized that tourism has significant opportunities and potential to create investment and jobs in B.C.," said Santori.

"And of course the development of resorts is key to achieving that as well as to increasing tourism in the province – I mean, one has only to look into your (Whistler’s) backyard to see what impact a good healthy development of that kind can do for the community and the province."

Santori says his role is not limited to the development of new resorts in the province, but also to existing resorts and resorts in progress.

"The whole goal of the ministry is to (act on) the recommendations that will come from the Resort Task Force, in terms of how we deal with applications and how we streamline our processes," he said.

One of the biggest impediments to finding investors for new and existing resorts, says Santori, is the amount of red tape – the process is different for all applicants, different ministries have conflicting or duplicate application requirements, and the process can be long and drawn out. In some cases, developers have invested millions of dollars in the application process only to be told that they would have to start over, or that their project was rejected.

"I think we’ve learned in the past that the processes are so prolonged that it wasn’t conducive to investment," said Santori. "As a matter of fact it scared investors away because of a lack of certainty.

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