The Northern BC Tourism Association (NBCTA) represents the tourism industry in Northern British Columbia.
The Association is contracted to provide Tourism BC development and marketing activities. It represents one of the six regions of Tourism BC (formally the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation), but includes well over half of the province’s geography.
The Annual General Meeting and Conference of the NBCTA was held last week in Prince George. I believe that there were about 100 delegates this year, including a strong contingent of university tourism students – which is always a very promising sign for the future. This is the main annual event for northern tourism organizations and businesses, and is an effective venue for us on many levels. It is an exchange of information, swapping ideas which have worked in other areas, and a venue for developing partnerships that span the northern region and the broader tourism industry.
The Northern BC Tourism Association is funded through the hotel tax-based provincial tourism funding, which is used to partner dollars and effort with communities and tourism operators throughout the north.
I can do no more than touch upon all of the different things that Northern BC Tourism does for Prince Rupert. On the financial side, they form an important part of our fundraising. The hotel tax received by a community DMO accounts for only about a third of the budget of an average DMO. We take those dollars and use them to increase our available resources through a complex series of programs that allow us to leverage the initial investment. A successful visit by a travel writer or tour operator, for example, usually requires the help of the individual tourism businesses in Prince Rupert, TPR, the NBCTA, and often other agencies such as the Canadian Tourism Commission.
This sort of relationship holds true for almost everything we do. For example, say it was important for a certain travel guide or magazine to include a strong Prince Rupert presence. The NBCTA might offer to “co-op” a certain amount of space in that publication, paying a portion to make it affordable for us. We might then offer further savings to our members, paying for a portion of their advertising, making it affordable for them to advertise where they wouldn’t normally have the resources to do so. The end result is a section of Prince Rupert advertising, encouraging the publication to increase the amount of editorial coverage of Prince Rupert. It works for everybody.
Imagine this same system at play through a broad spectrum of marketing activities. In addition to that, the region uses a portion of its funding to do things that are of benefit to the entire region – from traditional advertising, such as the Northern BC Travel Guide, to a variety of social media platforms.
Even this doesn’t tell the whole story. They advocate when we need advocates, working at the provincial level to further the needs of the communities. When needed they come into the communities to solidify local support for tourism.
Given the size of our region, we have a special situation in the North. We have NBCTA satellite offices in Prince Rupert and Fort St. John, ensuring the strong connection between the individual tourism stakeholders, the communities, the region and the province.
That highlights one more vital role. The regional tourism office is a conduit that fuels the ongoing relationship of northern DMOs. I don’t remember a time when we didn’t have some sort of initiative on the go that included at least a few communities between Haida Gwaii and Dawson Creek.
The northern communities have much in common, and though we gather just once a year we work together on a daily basis through the regional organization.