B.C. reverses tourism policy

Three years after the B.C. government took over international tourism marketing, it's going back to industry control

B.C.'s tourism marketing has been focused on particular attractions such as skiing

Three years after the B.C. government took over international tourism marketing to direct post-Olympic efforts, Premier Christy Clark has put the tourism industry back in the driver’s seat.

Clark and Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Minister Pat Bell announced the creation of a new Crown corporation Monday in Vancouver. They said Destination BC will be industry led and have formula funding from provincial taxpayers to advertise the province’s attractions outside the country.

Clark said she spoke out as a radio host against the government takeover when it was announced in 2009 by former tourism minister Kevin Krueger. The Council of Tourism Associations expressed “grave concerns” at the time, when the industry-led Tourism BC was disbanded.

Bell said Destination BC will have an increasing emphasis on marketing in Asia, especially China and India. It is to take over responsibility April 1, 2013, using currently budgeted funds for the first year. After that, the intention is to base the budget on a legislated percentage of annual sales revenue.

Clark and Bell took the first step to changing tourism marketing in October 2011, with a $1.1 million campaign to promote B.C. ski resorts. Half the spending went to Ontario, and the rest was split between Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

B.C. has long targeted those markets, but ads focused on promoting the province generically with “Super Natural B.C.” promotions that did not emphasise specific attractions or activities.

NDP leader Adrian Dix tried to pre-empt the expected announcement last week, making his own promise that an NDP government would return control over tourism marketing to the industry.

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