One of the great things about being Canadian is that our nation is home to some of the most beautiful and inspiring natural landscapes in the world. There are therefore few industries more vital to Canada’s long-term economic success than tourism.
In 2011 alone, tourism fostered over 600,000 direct jobs and supported 1.6 million jobs nationally—that’s almost 10 per cent of all jobs in Canada. Tourism generated $78.8 billion in economic activity and represented more of our GDP than agriculture, forestry and fisheries combined. Even more encouraging, the size of the international tourism pie is getting bigger every year, with the number of global tourists to hit one billion this year and worth over $1 trillion.
But despite the good news, Canada’s share of the international tourism market is declining. Between 2002 and 2011, almost all countries posted gains in international arrivals—except Canada. Although our “brand name” is still ranked number one in the world, we have plummeted from 7th to 18th in actual choice of destination over the past decade. And sadly, this decline is entirely the fault of failed government policies.
For example, internationally, Canada’s tourism is promoted by our national marketing organization, the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC). Yet while other countries are investing aggressively in tourism marketing to better compete for international visitors, Canada has just removed one-fifth of the CTC’s core funding. In fact, the CTC’s total budget will be a mere $58 million in 2013/14, a 41.5 per cent plunge in the past decade.
Already, we are seeing the devastating effect of declining federal investment in Canada’s tourism sector. Fewer Americans—our traditional “go to” market—are visiting Canada, and travellers from emerging economies like Brazil, Russia, India, China and Mexico are increasingly choosing to spend their dollars elsewhere.
Another example of this mismanagement can be seen in Canada’s national parks, which add $3 billion to our economy and create the equivalent of 41,000 jobs in our communities. Yet the Conservatives have slashed millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs from Parks Canada, which means shorter seasons, limited hours, and fewer customers for local small businesses—the shops, restaurants, motels, and tourist services that depend on visitors to National Parks.
At the same time, the government’s short-sighted policies have caused Canada’s ‘travel deficit’ to climb to $14 billion annually. This has occurred precisely because the Conservatives have passed up repeated chances to showcase Canada to the world.
To capitalize on the growth of the international tourism market, we need a strong national marketing organization, a strong international presence to revitalize Canada’s reputation as a world-class destination, and federal government policies that help, rather than hinder, the efforts of this industry.
Tourism in Canada is big business—powered by local entrepreneurs. It is time the federal government recognizes the great importance of our small business and tourist industries to Canada’s economic and cultural prosperity – and acts!
MP, Vancouver Quadra
Liberal Critic responsible for Small Business and Tourism, Asia – Pacific Gateway and Western Economic Diversification