Tourist trap

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There are budget cuts you see right away, and there are others that you only feel later on. And while we’ve heard plenty about the cuts to the federal civil service, there hasn’t been the same focus on some of the other budget measures — measures that may come back to haunt provinces like this one that are trying hard to build tourism potential to replace other industries, especially in rural parts of the province.

It’s hard not to be familiar with this province’s tourism advertising. It pops up in television ads, on Air Canada flights, in full-page ads in the Globe and Mail and, as the provincial government loves to point out, fairly regularly at the top of the podium at advertising awards shows.

But those ads, designed to pull in Canadian visitors, are only part of the tourism marketing effort. The federal government markets the country as an international tourism destination through the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) — and we used to be popular. In fact, we used to be ranked as the seventh most popular international destination.

But as money to the CTC shrank, so has our popularity — we’ve slid to 18th. In 2001, there were more than 20 million international visitors. Last year, the number was just 16 million.

You can probably expect that number to get even smaller: the CTC took a massive hit in the last round of federal budget cuts, seeing its funding fall by $14 million — down to $58 million from $72 million.

You might argue that tourism marketing is a nice, safe place to save money. After all, it’s neither Canadian jobs nor services, because the bulk of marketing money is spent abroad.

But if you don’t spend marketing money — and most of the top 20 international destinations are actually spending more money, not less — tourists don’t even know you exist.

A recent Ottawa Citizen article on the CTC points out that, after the next round of cuts is fully implemented, Mexico will be spending more on international marketing than Canada. So, too, will South Africa, New Zealand and Switzerland. (Australia, in comparison, will spend two and a half times as much as Canada on tourism marketing next year, and the U.S. will spend almost $20 million in Canada alone.)

And, the article points out, Canada already has disincentives to travel, like high airport taxes and fees, along with visa requirements for tourists from emerging nations.

The end result? Canadians spend more than

$16 billion more travelling internationally than international tourists spend here. It’s money going right out of the economy.

The Tourism Industry Association of Canada puts the cuts to marketing this way: if we were still in the top 10 international destinations, we’d see an additional $5.2 billion in spending in Canada. If we were still in seventh place, both levels of government would share an additional $1.5 billion in taxes.

There’s an ounce of prevention and a pound of cure. There’s pennywise and there’s pound foolish.

And there’s robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Get the point? Apparently, the federal government doesn’t.

Organizations: Canadian Tourism Commission, Air Canada, Globe and Mail Ottawa Citizen Tourism Industry Association of Canada

Geographic location: Canada, Mexico, South Africa New Zealand Switzerland Australia U.S.

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Recent comments

  • M
    July 12, 2012 - 14:08

    By the looks of the red patches our favorite downtown panhandlers are waring it is likely we have an issue with Quebec youth/bums moving to our town for the summer. Vagrancy laws do need to be toughened up and this type of activity eliminated. It has nothing to do with income disparity. These kids can get a job in any shop they stand in front of to beg for change if they would wash up and show up.

  • David
    July 12, 2012 - 09:21

    The TV ads are effective, gorgeous, and inspriring to watch ..... they get people to come here.....once. The fact is that the ads are very deceptive, and they over-promise on what an average tourist with typical time and financial constraints can or will find when they get here. After more than a decade of uber-promotion, there remains far too little "product" here for tourists. They come, they see, they leave.....tick the box...been there, done that. Promotion has done 98% of what it could possibly ever achieve for this place....time to stop pouring the foundation and start building the house. Well, if it's not already far too late.....

    • Sandra
      July 12, 2012 - 12:45

      NL hospitality and service industry are in desperate need of training to compete successfully for the prize of the travelers $. Our government Ad / promotion is outstanding but sadly our product delivery is not. The Ad campaign will get them here once but investment in education is required to get them back. We've got he charm, not lets learn how to use it.

  • kp
    July 11, 2012 - 14:23

    @THE AKADEMIKLOFFE Sorry to hear about that disruption to your vacation. However, vagrancy and panhandlers are not a problem to be solved with legislation and policing. Rather, they are symptoms of poverty and economic disparity (not to mention our abysmal mental health system and our colonial heritage) and must therefore be addressed through social policy and wealth redistribution. Enjoy your cruise.

  • Jon Parsons
    July 11, 2012 - 12:08

    @the akademikloffe... yeah, one would expect for all the money brought in by the tourism industry that there wouldn't be so much inequality and poverty, but what is it that Adorno said: "The culture industry perpetually cheats its consumers of what it perpetually promises."

  • Jon Parsons
    July 11, 2012 - 11:41

    Just curious, but don't op-ed pieces usually include the name of the author? Also, a fun fact: the govt of NL in 2007 spent $11 million on its tourism campaign and estimated (or well, Tom Hedderson suggested) that the economy benefited to the tune of $850 million. (http://www.targetmarketing.ca/assets/Know_thyself_Progress_October_2007.pdf) Recent reports have also indicated that last year more tourists visited the province than our total population. This illustrates just how important tourism is to our province; however, the anxiety expressed in the op-ed shows just how fragile this industry is.

  • The Akademikloffe
    July 11, 2012 - 09:42

    I wish to raise as tourism matter at a local outlet and this seems the most convenient. We disembarked the Akademikloffe this morning and immediately proceeded to get coffee only to be met by a panhandler (literally, my wife joked as he was pandering with a steel kitchen bowl). We continued to a recommended breakfast spot and bakery where we encountered a more aggressive panhandler. You have a lovely city, but you need vagrancy and panhandling laws. Your tourism literature can boast about scenic beauty but the social experience this morning was far from admirable. It is the experience tourists take away, not your advertisements.