It’s been three long years since the provincial government abolished Tourism B.C., the Crown corporation that oversaw tourism marketing for the $13-billion industry.
The decision, coming just six months before the 2010 Winter Olympics, perplexed many in the tourism industry, who knew that the Games offered an unprecedented opportunity to sell the province as a world-class destination.
Last week, Premier Christy Clark remedied that blunder by creating Destination B.C., a revamped Crown corporation dedicated to tourism marketing.
“It’s an opportunity to get back to where we were; an effective marketing machine as a province,” said Robert Gialloreto, Tourism Victoria president and CEO.
Among the potential benefits of the move, he sees opportunities to expand marketing in China, as Greater Victoria already has a strong brand presence there.
“We have a great working relationship with (Ministry of Tourism) reps in China, and they do great work for us,” he said. “We want to make sure our market presence there is maintained.”
Destination B.C. is the result of a 15-month consultation with the Tourism Industry Association of B.C., which represents the 18,000 tourism businesses across the province.
Lana Denoni, association chair and Victoria businesswoman, said the new corporation has a degree of transparency and accountability that didn’t exist under the old Tourism B.C. model.
“The ease of communication with an organization outside of government is certainly much quicker,” she said.
The board of directors will consist of four industry representatives and five business experts from each of the six tourism regions in the province.
“We’re very pleased, and I think the industry is very pleased,” she said.
Destination B.C. will take over marketing operations on April 1, 2013, the same day the provincial sales tax comes back into effect.
For the first year, funding will come from the Ministry of Tourism, after which funding will come from the existing hotel sales tax.
Gialloreto said the new model will “only be as good as the people who populate it,” and the most important decision will come when the board chooses a CEO.
“I’m hopeful to see better regular communication back and forth (with government),” he said. “It (previously) wasn’t as good as we’d all have liked to have seen it.”
Gialloreto hopes Destination B.C. will begin to leverage dollars by creating joint marketing campaigns with regional associations like Tourism Victoria.
“We only have so many dollars. The challenge with Victoria is we have so many different components to what makes this city. We have to choose carefully (keeping in mind) what matters to each market.”