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FUHR: B.C. tourism sector is a winner

Kelowna-Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Stephen Fuhr
July 27, 2019 - 12:00 PM

 


OPINION


More economic good news is coming out of a sector that is vital to the Okanagan – tourism.

In 2018, Canada experienced a second consecutive record-breaking year for tourism, welcoming over 21 million tourists for the first time ever.

In BC alone, international visitor arrivals increased 13.8% in April 2019 compared to April 2018.

Total tourism revenues in 2018 from domestic and international travellers were $102.1 billion, an increase of 5.2% over 2017.

And the tourism sector is a job generator, supporting 1.8 million jobs - the largest employer of youth and a major source of employment for new Canadians and permanent residents.

It’s the concerted effort of our communities and those who support the creation of cultural experiences for visitors, as well as regional organizations like the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) that have made the Okanagan and Canada a destination of choice.

It’s worth noting that TOTA, which represents business and community tourism interests throughout the region, was named 2018’s winner of the prestigious Tourism for Tomorrow Destination Award.

TOTA is also assisting regional Indigenous communities with tourism development and leading the way in sustainable tourism, developing a regional Charter of Sustainability — the first of its kind in North America, and seeking Biosphere Tourism Certification as a sustainable destination – the first destination in the US or Canada to do so.

But not all regions in the country have the advantages we do. Without an award-winning wine sector or resorts like Big White in their midst, other Canadian communities are finding it a challenge to realize the economic benefits of tourism.

Since 2016, federal budgets have provided concrete measures to accelerate the tourism sector's expansion.

At the same time, historic investments have been made in developing the transportation, communications, social and cultural infrastructure that enables the industry's growth.

Here at home, for example, we have welcomed direct federal funding support for local arts and culture events, museums and galleries, infrastructure, recreational facilities, and popular attractions like the Okanagan Rail Trail, all of which enhance the visitor experience in Kelowna-Lake Country and generate revenues in the local economy.

Additionally, the federal government has developed a tourism growth strategy, in tandem with provincial and territorial strategies, to unleash the potential of tourism, recognizing that every community has something to offer and can aspire to be a destination.

Budget 2019 for instance, established the Canadian Experiences Fund, a $58.5 million investment fund that will support the development of products and experiences that play to communities' strengths and entice international visitors to look beyond the usual destinations and the summer season.

By putting the focus on communities that take advantage of their unique cultures, heritage, and locations, the Government of Canada, in partnership with all levels of government and the private sector, is giving Canadians the tools to show the world what our whole country has to offer all year round. This will enable growth in the tourism sector, and drive economic growth and job creation in all regions of the country for many years to come.

— Stephen Fuhr is the Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country and the Chair of the Standing Committee on National Defence


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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2019
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