Reduced investment in tourism will bring reduced profit

I’ve written many times about the millions of dollars that tourism brings into Prince Rupert each year.

I’ve written many times about the millions of dollars that tourism brings into Prince Rupert each year.

Tourism imports customers, generating income for almost every business in town. The benefits spiral out to include everyone who calls Prince Rupert home. These can be both tangible benefits, for those directly employed in retail, hospitality, attractions, and so on (and let’s not forget the summer jobs that allow students to stay in Prince Rupert), to the less tangible benefits such as amenities created for tourism but enjoyed by the community.

“Yet, like a stock no one seems to know about,” my friend Rob Gialloreto from Tourism Victoria wrote in the Times Colonist last week, “many ignore the investment opportunity and treat tourism like a test we didn’t study for; we cross our fingers and hope.”

But as Rob also pointed out, “Those who work in the tourism industry have never relied on hope.” Tourism Prince Rupert works to bring visitors. We don’t attempt to profit from tourism. We don’t develop businesses or attractions, hold festivals, or maintain infrastructure. These things are the mandate of other local agencies, and local business. Our role lies primarily outside the community, drawing tourism revenue into Prince Rupert, and we use proven techniques to make every dollar count.

We partner with many other agencies to raise funds for tourism promotion, and also work with many other agencies, particularly in the northern region, to develop cooperative marketing campaigns. Sometimes these take the form of advertising in print and broadcast media, and increasingly they take advantage of a consumer shift to social media and online trip planning.

For all of the value in traditional advertising, it is far more lucrative, in terms of return on investment, to work with travel writers, photographers, and videographers to make sure that stories and images of Prince Rupert are seen in our key markets. We work with these people every day, and to ensure that we’re investing our efforts in the right way, and to ensure that we’re leveraging our money to maximize our investment, we cooperate closely with the travel media department at Tourism BC.

Through the Northern BC Tourism Association we work with tour operators and travel agents anywhere in the world where we can effectively sell Prince Rupert. Like travel media, these people influence large numbers of potential visitors. As frequently as possible we bring them to Prince Rupert to experience it for themselves so that they can sell our destination more effectively.

We do some advocacy, of course. We participate in regional, provincial and national groups which collectively advocate for improvements important to us all – such as air access, or land tenure issues. We also maintain open communications with all levels of government to ensure that Prince Rupert’s tourism concerns are remembered when political decisions are made.

We work with our member businesses and attractions to help them promote what they have to offer. This is particularly true as marketing changes, and small operators are having to navigate new forms of media in order to retain their share of the profits of tourism.

We do all of these things with less and less financial support with each passing year. Since absorbing Tourism BC back into government over two years ago, nothing resembling a concrete provincial tourism plan has been produced, while, at the same time, provincial investment in tourism has been significantly cut back. If this trend is not reversed Prince Rupert – and indeed all of British Columbia – can expect to see a reduction in the amount of money that tourism brings each year.