The Power of Tourism

In early November, I popped over to Vancouver to take in a luncheon hosted by the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. The theme was “The Power of Tourism” and the keynote presenter was Marsha Walden, CEO of Destination BC. She had some really interesting things to say that I thought I should pass along.

She began her presentation by noting just how much travel has changed in the past 60 – 70 years. In the 1950s, she said, there were about 25 million international travelers, but by 2010, almost a billion people “wandering the planet leaving a footprint in every corner.” By 2030, the number of travelers will have nearly doubled.

Tour on Bus

“So if you think about it, it took about 2000 years to create the first billion travelers, and it will only take 20 years to create the second billion.” she noted, before emphasizing that “for those of us in the tourism industry, this represents an incredible opportunity…and incredible responsibility around sustainable tourism.”

Growth in tourism is projected to outpace growth in almost every other sector of the provincial economy. “In fact, growth in revenue and GDP in the last couple of years has exceeded five percent (5%) every year,” she said, before boasting: “Here in BC, it’s a true powerhouse. It generates 16 billion in revenue, over 7 billion in GDP, and jobs for 128, 000 people in every part of the province.”

Guests in Estuary

“It may come as a surprise to many of you to know that tourism contributes more to British Columbia’s GDP than any other primary resource industry. More than agriculture. More than forestry. More than mining. More than oil and gas,” she asserted and then added: “We’re big and we’re getting bigger.”

I was galvanized by what she had said less than 10 minutes into her presentation. The implications are very significant. The tourism industry is gaining considerable power to influence government decision-making. The calls for a ban on the logging of old growth forests coming from municipalities on Southern Vancouver Island is a case in point. Communities are realizing more economic benefit from old growth left standing than when cut down and hauled away, in addition to the ecological and social benefits.

Guests on trail

I was also absolutely delighted to hear Ms. Walden acknowledge that with this incredible growth in size and influence comes a responsibility to ensure that actions taken in marketing and development do not compromise the long-term sustainability of the industry. Unfortunately, I don’t recall whether or not she delved into this topic more deeply later in her talk, but I’ll find out as I continue to listen to a recording of it.

In the meantime, I encourage you to give it a listen as well. 45 mins in duration, but you can listen to as much as you like at any time. It’s posted to SoundCloud.