All Parties Must Commit to Tourism

Chuck Davidson HeadshotFor the last couple of months, the Canadian dollar has hovered around the 70-cent mark in relation to the U.S. dollar. While this can prove challenging for businesses on several fronts, it must also be viewed as an opportunity in other areas.

One of those areas that has been pointed out repeatedly is the tourism sector. A low Canadian dollar means Americans visiting the Great White North get more for their dollars.

The challenge, however, is making potential visitors aware of all of the festivals, events and tourist destinations we have to offer. The problem is Travel Manitoba (the organization tasked with marketing Manitoba to the rest of the world) has been operating on a shoestring budget for more than a decade and simply doesn’t have the resources to effectively market to new jurisdictions.

For more than two years, the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce (MCC) and its tourism committee, made up of industry stakeholders, have advocated for a sustainable funding model that is based on the “96/4” plan created by Travel Manitoba. The investment model recommends the government keep 96 per cent of the $250 million collected in provincial tax dollars annually as a result of tourism and to provide the remaining four per cent to Travel Manitoba to be used for marketing. It’s a win-win for both the industry and the government, as the plan provides increased tax dollars to the provincial coffers, while providing Travel Manitoba with an increased marketing budget to promote the province and attract new visitors eager to spend money.

In last fall’s speech from the throne, the government endorsed the 96/4 model and indicated it would increase its annual tourism expenditures to achieve that level of investment, thereby creating a sustainable funding model to boost tourism and market Manitoba to the world.

The announcement and commitment were greeted with great excitement from the tourism sector. However, since the November announcement, no actual timetable to implement the plan has been confirmed and no date announced for when it will go into effect.

Complicating the matter further is the April 19 provincial election and the possibility of a change in government. This uncertainty and a lack of a clear indication of intent from both the Conservatives and Liberals has tempered the excitement felt that day in November.

Tourism already plays an important role in the Manitoba economy, but the MCC believes tourism is a critical pillar that can continue to grow and strengthen the province and its economy. Tourism means jobs for Manitobans, including some 5,500 tourism-related businesses creating close to 25,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs throughout Manitoba.

Local universities and colleges offer certificate and degree programs in tourism, encouraging students to seek career opportunities in this segment.

The MCC is calling for a full commitment by all parties to implement this sustainable investment model. An initial investment of $3 million would be more than offset by an increase in provincial tax revenues as a result of increased tourism activity. This additional revenue provides government with the ability to increase investment in its stated priorities. Following through on the investment model could increase annual tourism expenditures by more than 35 per cent to $2.1 billion by 2020, with an increased potential to deliver $288 million in new money as well as an additional $46 million in tax revenue to the province.

The province’s investment would be more than offset by an increase in provincial tourism tax revenues.

As we begin the final legislative session before the April election, it is imperative for the province and the opposition parties vying to form the next government to make clear their commitment to implement a sustainable investment model.

Chuck Davidson
President and CEO
Manitoba Chambers of Commerce

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