03 February 2006

Are we driving tourists away?

Living in Victoria, there's always heaps of media coverage when a new study shows toursim is dropping. It's one of our biggest industries; tourism brought in $5 billion in 2001, second only to forestry at $8.2 billion. [For more stats see Value of Tourism (pdf).] However, since 2001, the numbers of American tourists -- about 1 in 4 visitors were American in 2001 -- have been dropping slowly but steadily.

The most recent complaint? We're boring. Canada known only for moose, mountains, Mounties, tourism officials complain [MSN]. Apparently, US travellers are looking for "sun and fun" -- maybe because they rhyme -- in markets such as Mexico.

Fingers are also pointing at a stronger Canadian dollar and of course border-crossing has become more difficult, though I'd argue that's America's own doing.

Then there's this tidbit: according to Michele McKenzie, president of the Canadian Tourism Commission, "It is becoming apparent that many neighbouring Americans are not sure Canadians still like them."

Really? So we're not only boring, but apparently we slung some mud their way? Hmm.

There will be a full report out at the end of the month; I may post a follow-up.



Mike DeWolfe said...

Everybody hates a tourist.
For me: I really hope Victoria's tourist industry collapses. Tourism isn't an industry: it's a mutant form of consumerism. People today don't want to travel to learn about other cultures and see how they live. They want to shop in unfamiliar malls while drinking familiar Starbucks.

RW said...

In all fairness, your description of tourism is accurate, but it is a separate and distinct thing from "travelling". It's Disneyland to six months in Sub-Saharan Africa with a backpack. It's going up the CN Tower compared to spending a month in St. John's.

Given the curreent pathetic state of downtown Victoria, I hate to think of what would happen if the tourism industry collapsed. It seems an odd thing to wish for, considering how reliant we are on those dollars to keep the local economy running.

And for the record, for many of our American friends, visiting Victoria, with all of our Starbucks crossed with our faux-British twee-ness, is as close as they will ever come to learning about another culture. Sad to say, THIS (sweeping inclusive arm-gesture which knocks a stack of cds off the computer desk) is a whole new world and way of life to them.

All IMHO, of course.

Tim said...

My opinion lies somewhere between Mike's and Rob's. Relying on Tourism as a primary source of economic livelihood is madness -- we have no control of that economy, reliant as it is on the prosperity of others and their preferences. Victoria should be working a lot harder than it is to diversify. However, there's little evidence of a concerted effort to that end, so until some other "industry" takes hold, we have to grin and bear it and try to continue to attract parochial first-worlders looking for an easily-digested change of environment. We have nothing else to offer at the moment (except for perhaps a nice place to sidle into the grave as a retiree or heroin addict).

Cheryl said...

I have nothing at all against travellers, in fact, I have been encouraging them through my Unofficial Guide to Victoria for almost 10 years.

I don't have anything against individual Americans, either -- just their government.

I do have a problem with ignorant camera-happy mountie-in-serge-seeking tourists. (I worked in a souvenir shop on Government Street one sad summer.) And if some of those folks stay away -- the ones ignorant enough to think that if a few louder Canadians say something disparaging about their country that they won't personally be welcomed -- well, I won't lose any sleep.