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.