When Tourism Vancouver Island CEO Anthony Everett told conference delegates yesterday that since starting his job just nine months ago he had travelled 8,000 kilometres up and down the island engaging stakeholders, I could relate.
In fact, this time of the year I essentially do the same thing but on a provincial scale, travelling to each region to meet with members and stakeholders regarding issues that impact our industry.
Anthony’s remarks also reminded me of how much of Vancouver Island I have yet to visit, let alone tourism professionals to meet here and throughout the rest of the province.
In that context, the many regional and sectoral conferences from now to November provide me with an opportunity to not only
explore BC, but importantly meet face-to-face with tourism industry leaders, entrepreneurs, operators and other stakeholders for the purposes of learning, listening and ultimately responding to industry needs. During these discussions, I generally pose four questions:
What and/or how have government (at all levels) policies impacted your business or sector (positively or negatively)?
What, if any action have you taken as a business or organization?
What does the tourism industry, and TIABC specifically, need to do to address these issues or opportunities?
What key messages can we deliver to various levels of government on your behalf?
The feedback so far has been extremely useful to help inform TIABC’s Board of Directors on organizational priorities, as well as for revising or drafting new policy positions on important files.
As you might expect, two primary areas of concern revolve around labour shortages and housing, both inextricably linked. Other issues I’ve heard more about so far include the tenuous future of sport fishing in BC, the potential ramifications of (federal) species-at-risk legislation, the desperate need for transportation infrastructure investments (e.g. Malahat Highway improvements), the unintended consequences of various taxes, the lack of funding security for Destination BC…the list goes on and on.
As I continue my travels around the province over the next couple of months, I expect to hear many similar sentiments from professional colleagues, as well as the question, “Are we making any progress at all on these challenges?”
Given that there are so many dynamics and moving parts associated with each issue, and at the risk of sounding coy, there are three possible answers to that question - yes, no, or maybe.
However, what I can assure our Board, members and other stakeholders is that I do see steady, albeit slow progress on many files even if we haven’t yet achieved the desired outcomes. One indicator of making headway is the regular, candid, constructive, and informative dialogue TIABC has with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, as well as other ministries, ministers, MLAs and MPs.
Ideologically, we may have our differences on various issues or policies, but all parties remain open to listening, learning and sharing information.
Tackling the aforementioned issues as a cohesive and united industry is paramount to the future of BC’s visitor economy. Your feedback, ideas and input are vitally important to the process. So I encourage you to attend your regional or sectoral conferences and pull me aside with answers to the four questions I referenced earlier so that I’m able to convey your suggestions, ideas and opinions to all levels of government.
Like many delegates at Tourism Vancouver Island’s conference this week, it’s my first visit to Port Hardy and the North Island. I’m even more embarrassed to admit that it’s taken me 30 years to meet my first cousin who lives here.
I look forward to attending the Northern BC and Kootenay Rockies tourism conferences next month. Who knows, I might even find more cousins that I’ve never met in Prince George and Cranbrook.