Provincial tourism agency returns

November 7, 2012
Times Colonist
Andrew A. Duffy Sandra McCulloch
Article Source: Read the Original Article

The province is establishing a new Crown corporation to handle tourism marketing, and the move is being met with mixed reviews.

Destination B.C. will take over from Tourism B.C., which the government shut down in 2009, shifting some of its workings into the Tourism Ministry.

The new corporation will be run by a nine-member board, to be selected over the next month, said Tourism Minister Pat Bell. It will be made up of five people not involved in the industry at a senior level and four others.

A tourism marketing committee will advise the board on marketing priorities.

"I'm very excited about this specific model," said Bell. "I think the notion of having regional destination marketing organizations represented from all over the province will create a sense of openness that perhaps was not achieved previously."

Bell called the model "a new and innovative model of governance."

But the devil is in the details, said Rod Harris, who in 2009 was fired as CEO of Tourism B.C. after 16 years at the helm.

"It's a lot weaker than the organization we were engaged with," said Harris, who now teaches tourism-industry management at Royal Roads University and in Austria.

Harris was fired when the government axed Tourism B.C., relieved the board of directors of its duties and swallowed 146 staff into the ministry in a move that it said would provide better co-ordination of B.C.'s marketing strategy to take advantage of economic benefits from the Vancouver Olympics.

Harris said Destination B.C. is "not really an arms-length, industry-run organization."

The first board will be chosen by the minister's advisory council for tourism and the Tourism Industry Association Task Force, which will whittle down a list of 27 names - three for each board position - provided by the tourism minister.

Tourism industry consultant Frank Bourree of Chemistry Consulting said it was a "step forward in re-establishing this province where it needs to be on the world stage."

"Many of the concepts behind the Tourism B.C. of old, and the best practices from there, are being implemented in the new model," he said.

Bourree, who sat on Tourism B.C.'s board for years, said most of the board was disappointed when the old agency was dissolved in 2009. But "it's time to move forward," he said.

Destination B.C. will be formally created on April 1, 2013, and have an initial budget of $48.87 million.

The following year, the budget will convert to a percentage of industry revenue. If tourism grows, Destination B.C.'s revenue will grow.

John Winter, president and CEO of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, lauded the new organization, saying it "will ensure that the marketing of B.C.'s tourism sector will be led by tourism professionals in the private sector in combination with protected funding [from] the B.C. legislature."