Tourism to benefit from changes announced in provincial budget 

Jet fuel tax axed, liquor license barriers to change

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The tourism industry was a big winner in the 2012 provincial budget, tabled by Finance Minister Kevin Falcon in Victoria last week.

Concessions to tourism include:

• A move towards an industry-led marketing agency;

• An initiative to coordinate provincial, regional and local efforts at tourism marketing;

• The elimination of the provincial jet fuel tax for international flights;

• The removal of liquor license barriers;

• A new training tax credit; and

• A move to modernize the provincial liquor license standards;

Barrett Fisher, president and CEO of Tourism Whistler, said last week's budget did a lot for the tourism industry.

"(This year's budget) has been particularly thoughtful for tourism. I think we've got real leadership in our tourism minister today... I think (the ministry has) been very proactive in understanding the needs of tourism, what the understanding what the big challenges are and what the opportunities are."

Fisher added that Tourism Whistler had been in discussions regarding coordinating tourism strategies at federal, provincial and regional levels.

"(We looked at) what would be the ideal agency that would, from my perspective, needs to be customer driven, market driven, and industry supported, and the excellent communication with government. Those are the four pieces we've had discussions on," Fisher said.

Eliminating jet fuel tax will also impact the destination market for Whistler.

"Our connectivity to our worldwide markets is through YVR, certainly when we look at some of the barriers to tourism, to travel to Vancouver and Whistler, we look at air access," she said.

"(Eliminating the tax) can save airlines thousands of dollars a day... the feedback we had back from our research was that we did have more onerous taxation, whether it was this tax or other taxes I can't speak to. (Ending the tax) is good news for Canada, it's good news for Vancouver as the gateway, and it's good new for Whistler."

Lana Denoni of the Tourism Industry Association of BC said her association had been seeking many of the changes since 2009. She added she was looking forward to improving a sector that brought $13.4 billion to the B.C. economy in 2010.

"Most importantly for us is the willingness to work on a new provincial destination marketing organization, which the industry feels is key for us moving forward. The government has embraced that and we are meeting with them. That was a real positive step forward from the industry's point of view because we know how important marketing is and competing globally and so having a new dedicated organization that focuses strictly on marketing for tourism is a key step forward."

While Whistler is near the top of the pile provincially when it comes to international profile and attractions that appeal to tourists, Denoni said the resort would still benefit from this new approach.

"We know there was tremendous exposure through the Olympics and we want to continue to maximize that and having a world-class marketing organization focusing on this, we think we can continue to build on the wonderful reputation of Canada, B.C., and many of the destinations including Whistler," she said.

"We know that it's challenging times right now and that every dollar counts. We're happy that the investment that comes to tourism we can turn around and triple that return... It's certainly the kind of investment that brings return."

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