B.C. tourism focuses on skiing, Asia

The B.C. government has revamped its tourism strategy, with a more modest growth target than than the one set before the 2010 Olympics.

Whistler and a dozen other B.C. ski resorts will benefit from a $1.1 million marketing effort this winter

VICTORIA – The B.C. government has revamped its tourism marketing strategy to focus on areas of strength, with a more modest growth target than than the one set before the 2010 Olympics.

Premier Christy Clark announced a new five-year strategy at a tourism industry conference in Victoria Tuesday. Its goal is to increase B.C. tourism revenues five per cent each year until 2015, rather than doubling tourism by that time as was ambitiously projected before the Olympics.

“It recognizes that the world economy is in rough shape, and I think we need to be more real about the goals that we set,” Clark told reporters after the speech.

The strategy focuses eight kinds of tourism where B.C. has an advantage: touring vacations, city experiences, skiing and snowboarding, aboriginal tourism, conventions and outdoor adventure-ecotourism.

“It’s a switch from promoting B.C. generically to promoting specific activities, the reasons why people come to British Columbia,” said Pat Bell, minister of jobs, tourism and innovation.

This winter’s ski promotion has a budget of $1.1 million, half of which will go to advertising in Ontario. The rest will be shared between Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, where B.C. has long promoted its “super natural” attractions in generic campaigns.

Longer-term efforts will be directed to emerging markets in China, India and Mexico, in addition to Japan, South Korea, Australia, Germany and the UK.

Clark also promised a new destination marketing organization with industry representation will be developed. The B.C. government surprised the industry with its 2009 announcement that it would disband Tourism BC and bring the post-Olympic tourism marketing program back into the government.

NDP tourism critic Spencer Chandra Herbert said the new agency is an admission that the government made a mistake that alienated the tourism industry.

“They got rid of tourism industry leadership and put politicians and bureaucrats in charge,” Chandra Herbert said. “The industry knows better than a political partisan how to market B.C. because their success depends on it.”

The NDP cited statistics from this summer showing tourist visits below those in 2009, despite an increase in international visits. Clark said a weak U.S. market, a high Canadian dollar and world-wide economic uncertainty have made the job of attracting tourists much more difficult.

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