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MP Saxton unveils new federal tourism strategy
A light mist of rain hasn't discouraged a flock of tourists from visiting the Capilano Suspension Bridge on this Thursday morning. This is a must-see Vancouver destination.
Rising above the pockets of low fog is the famous wooden span across the Capilano River that has put North Vancouver and Canada on the map.
And today it was the backdrop for North Vancouver MP Andrew Saxton's announcement of a new national tourism strategy. Big players in the local tourism scene including Grouse Mountain Resorts owner Stuart McLaughlin and CSB owner Nancy Stibbard, as well as local politicians, were also on hand.
"The federal government recognizes the importance of the tourism industry in growing the economy and creating jobs; now we have a coordinated approach with the federal tourism strategy," Saxton told The Outlook.
Saxton said tourism represents two per cent of Canada's gross domestic product, generating $73 billion in revenues a year.
That figure is projected to grow to $100 billion by 2015.
The North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce would like to see some of those tourist dollars spent locally.
"Canada has not capitalized on all of the [tourism] opportunities," said NVCC president Anne McMullin. "There is so much more; nature and outdoors is a huge part of it."
NVCC chair Mike Boehm said the national tourism strategy will help provide a single focus for tourism.
Noting some of the current challenges facing the industry, he said: "It costs more for us to fly to Newfoundland than to Europe."
McMullin nodded in agreement.
"You can promote and promote but if there isn't easy access to Vancouver and the region then it's more challenging," she said. "I think this [national tourism strategy] is a positive step."
Senator Nancy Greene, a celebrated Canadian Olympic skier and namesake of the highest stretch of Capilano Road that leads to Grouse Mountain, also attended Thursday's event. She spoke about the federal tourism strategy promoting coordination between the different levels of government and the private tourism operators.
"It's a much better way of the having [tourism] money targeted and focused," said Greene. "To me, it's huge."
Interim goals for the new federal tourism strategy include marketing Canada as a premier tourist destination and ensuring there are enough skills and labour to foster projected growth in the industry.
The federal government recently secured an "approved destination" status with China, meaning Canadian tourism will now be promoted among industry leaders in that country.
That should come as welcome news for local attractions on the North Shore and across the country.
The host of the Thursday's announcement, Nancy Stibbard, is a member of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada Hall of Fame. She continues to actively advocate on behalf of the industry that is at the root of her business. She said international tourism is not a new phenomenon at the bridge: Visitors from Japan have been hiking the trails around the CSB since the early 1900s.
But the CSB is not plastered on billboards or other media in other countries because the company simply can't afford it. Their marketing strategy has been more grassroots.
"We make ourselves known through the media," she explains. "We spend all of our advertising dollars on local marketing in the hopes that residents will have a good experience and spread the word."