Occasionally people say to me…”You would make a good politician.” Once I stop laughing, my response usually consists of “Seriously?” “What have you been smoking?” Of course I no longer need to ask the last question in jest.
Truth is, sometimes people make the comment as a compliment, but other times it’s intended as an insult. In the latter scenario, I'm assuming it's because some politicians have been known to make promises they can’t keep or talk out of both sides of their mouths…among other less desirable traits. My wife says I exhibit similar behaviour from time-to-time, so I know what I'm talking about.
Whatever your perception of politicians, good or bad, you can’t argue with the fact that they have one of the most difficult jobs known to human (people
kind. Always under public scrutiny, constantly criticized for decisions, supported by only a percentage of the electorate, on the clock 24/7, expected to tow the party line in spite of personal convictions, constantly learning about and managing huge files, living out of a suitcase, sitting through endless meetings, and hearing from countless frustrated constituents with issues to resolve, it is often a thankless and exhausting profession. I ask myself, why would anyone want a job like that?
The short answer is most politicians believe they can help change society for the better. What's more, they possess a deep longing to help their community move toward a more prosperous and stronger future. It’s a noble goal at best, and some would argue, a naïve one at worst. Regardless of your perspective, one has to admire people in office who essentially give up their private lives to 'serve the people'. And thank goodness for those that fulfill these critical roles.
Now that the recent municipal elections are over, there are hundreds of new councillors and dozens of new mayors learning the ropes of local politics and eager to contribute. For many, the next few months will be intense, hard and tiring.
While recognizing that it will take time for new councils to get up to speed, it behoves us as an industry to begin reaching out to our local mayors and councillors to build relationships that will undoubtedly benefit our visitor economy now and in the future. Although many of the broader tourism issues need to be addressed by decision-makers at the provincial and federal levels, local officials also play a key role of influence both at home and within more senior levels of government.
In fairly short order, we need to know how our local politicians view the tourism industry. Do they see it as an economic pillar with growth potential, investment opportunities, and as a primary employer of youth? Are they willing to create a regulatory framework that both protects entrepreneurs and operators while allowing the industry to flourish? Will they look out for the visitor economy when considering infrastructure projects? Clearly there are many more questions we need to ask newly elected mayors and councillors.
Suffice it to say, the time to connect (or reconnect) with your City Hall is now. Start by sending a congratulatory note to your mayor and council, subscribe to their Twitter feeds, invite them for coffee…you get the idea. And while you're at it, remember to thank those on their way out for their faithful service over the last few years (or longer).
Given how I’m wired (i.e. DNA), I can better help my community, and in this case industry, from the other side. So if you ever hear me announce that I’m running for office, you can safely assume that I’m smoking something.
Before I wrap up, allow me to take the opportunity to thank Jim Humphrey for his dedication and hard work as chair of TIABC’s Board of Directors over the last three years. Jim’s passion for tourism and unwavering belief in TIABC’s mandate as an advocate for BC’s visitor economy is unmatched.
What many people don’t know is that aside from operating his own business and chairing our organization, Jim also committed extensive volunteer time as chair of Tourism Cowichan, BC Lodging and Campgrounds Association, Vancouver Island Minor Hockey Association, among others…simultaneously no less. I honestly don’t know how he did it.
Jim is the consummate volunteer, and like many politicians, believes in giving back to his community, and lucky for us, to the tourism industry at large.
On behalf of the board and your professional colleagues throughout BC, thanks Jim. We look forward to your continued role with TIABC as past-chair.