Tourism not out of the woods yet 

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You can hear the sighs of relief as every snowflake falls from the sky.

You could see it in the smiles of the lifties Saturday — even the thousands swarming Whistler Blackcomb's slopes on the weekend were for the most part smiling.

Hotel managers are breathing more easily, restaurateurs and small business owners are putting away their red pens this week, staff is getting hours — everyone is feeling pretty good right now.

With a record setting December and January under our belts we are sliding into Spring Break, and then hopefully a strong Easter break and the Telus World Ski and Snowboard festival.

Last week we even learned that the Mexican visa "issue" might be less of an issue this Easter with all levels of government working to try and make sure it doesn't stop our friends from warmer climes coming to ski.

And on Feb.10 the Tourism Facilitation Action Plan was also announced, which will mean Americans with a single indictable offence, for which they served less than six months in jail, are less likely to be turned back at the border.

This has been a concern for Whistler stakeholders for some time. Border guards have the discretion to turn back U.S. visitors for Drinking Under the Influence charges or even infractions that are historical. Tourism official say this has cost Canada millions in lost revenue. It should be pointed out that those with serious criminal histories will still be subject to Canada's regulations, as they should be.

And it sounds like this week's provincial budget also came with some goodies for tourism including the government looking at the establishment of an industry-led provincial tourism-marketing agency. If such an agency were to be set up it would mean provincial, regional and local stakeholders would all work together on formulating tourism strategy — something the Tourism Industry Association of BC (TIABC) has been pushing for.

"By creating a market-driven regime, we can solidify and strengthen B.C.'s competitive advantage in the world of tourism," said Lana Denoni, TIABC's chair.

You may remember that the crown corporation Tourism BC was scrapped by Gordon Campbell's liberal government just before the 2010 Olympic Games.

In November last year premier Christy Clark unveiled some new strategies to entice travellers from Ontario to B.C. along with a five-year strategy to increase tourism revenues by five per cent a year to $18 billion by 2016.

Could one conclude from this that the former Liberal Plan to internalize tourism marketing didn't work?

The budget also included two other key components for Whistler: the elimination of the provincial jet fuel tax for international flights and a move to modernize provincial liquor standards.

TIABC is reporting that YVR has secured commitments from 22 airlines to expand their service immediately with this tax change.

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