Sample Tourism Week Op-Ed

Tourism Means Business in [Insert Name of Community]


This week is Tourism Week in Canada, a national initiative highlighting the economic impact of travel and tourism.  Our industry has much to celebrate this week; as one of Canada's most important industries, tourism contributes more than $74 billion to the Canadian economy and supports more than 617,300 full-time jobs.

At the same time, Tourism Week provides us an occasion to reflect on lost opportunity, not only for our industry but also for the Canadian economy as a whole.  Since our communities depend on tourism and the visitor spending it brings, recent trends are eye-opening for those of us in the sector and should be of equal concern to all Canadians.

Tourism is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the global economy.  In many of the world’s emerging economies, like China, India, Mexico, Brazil and Russia, a rapidly growing middle-class is clamouring to travel to unique and exciting destinations like Canada.  Fortunately for us, immeasurable potential stems from our progressive culture and hospitable people as well as Canada’s beautiful natural landscapes and her dynamic urban centres.

But at a time when inbound tourism should be booming, we are faltering.  Over the course of the last decade, these wealthy middle-class travellers have been eagerly spending their travel dollars elsewhere, while fewer and fewer American travellers – our traditional go-to market – have been coming here.

We’re losing our footing in a competitive marketplace – at a rather alarming rate.  Between 2002 and 2010, almost all countries posted gains in international tourist arrivals – except Canada.  We’ve actually fallen from 7th place to 15th in this category between 2002 and 2011.  Overnight visits from the United States have dropped ___ in the last decade alone.

Why is this the case?  We are being outperformed by other countries that are better marketed, easier to get to and less expensive to visit.

Given the economic significance of tourism, travel should be easy and accessible. But as anyone who has recently flown knows, the cost of flying in Canada serves as a deterrent to prospective travellers.  And the challenges involved in getting a visitor visa and crossing our border are deterring millions of international visitors from coming to Canada.

Like all other export consumers, the burgeoning international travel class has choice, and increasingly, people are simply choosing not to pay high Canadian aviation taxes or deal with red tape to come here.
What impact might thousands more leisure and business travelers have on [our city]’s hoteliers, restaurateurs, retailers, museums and countless other businesses?

Here are three simple ways to help us get back on track:

  • Invest in the Canadian Tourism Commission. A more competitively-funded national tourism organization is essential to help us drive international arrivals in Canada.
  • Reduce the cost burden on air travel.  Our current aviation cost structure is choking off one of Canada’s great economic opportunities. Airport rents, aviation fuel taxes and security fees have rendered us 125th in the world for aviation cost structure based on the World Economic Forum Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report.  As a vast country bordered by oceans on three sides, Canada is a “Fly-to” destination – and our aviation cost structure is prohibitive to economic growth and job creation.  
  • Modernize our visitor visa system.  An effective visa system to help facilitate access for international visitors, particularly those from our key emerging markets (Brazil, Russia, India, China and Mexico).  The recent introduction of 10-year multiple-entry visas is an important step in facilitating travel from international visitors, but more visa application centres and greater processing capacity are needed to develop these key new markets.  
  • Continue to work with the US government on border security issues.  Facilitating the process of crossing the border is essential for increasing business and leisure travel.  While the current Canada needs to build on pre-clearance services and trusted traveller programs to improve the fluidity at Canada’s ports of entry.

Tourism Week in Canada is not only an occasion to celebrate our successes, but an occasion to remind policymakers that the whole country would benefit from the added tax revenue and economic activity that would be generated by increasing international visitation to Canada.

Tourism means business, business means jobs, and jobs mean healthy and prosperous communities.

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For more information, please contact:

David Lauer, Manager, Communications
Tourism Industry Association of Canada
Phone: 613-238-9400

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