One cannot will a vehicle with a half-full tank of gas to carry its occupants the distance made possible with a full tank, yet this appears to be the government’s strategy to move the tourism industry from the current $8.9B to $20B by 2030.
Alida Visbach, TIAA Board Chair
February 27, 2020 (Calgary, Alberta) As part of its election platform, the United Conservative Party (UCP) laid-out an audacious goal to grow Alberta’s tourism industry to a $20B sector by the year 2030. So, when over 400 tourism industry representatives gathered last month in Edmonton and Calgary (at the government’s invitation) to help provide guidance on the development of a strategy to support this goal, there was a palpable sense of energy among tourism industry professionals that this was a transformational opportunity to kick-start Alberta’s economy: a way to spark new regional economic development efforts; a path to support community renewal; and, a way to purposefully attract investment for new tourism product development, and experiences. To paraphrase one attendee: “We’re Albertan, and we’re entrepreneurial to the core. Set a difficult goal, and watch us find a way to beat it!”
However, Budget 2020/21 neither supports that tourism entrepreneurial spirit, nor does it lay-out any commitments that will in any meaningful way take the government nearer to its $20B tourism revenue goal. This is now the sixth consecutive year where Travel Alberta’s budget (the province’s destination promotion agency), has been reduced in defense of fiscal balancing efforts. Working with a budget that is 38% smaller than six years ago presents tremendous challenges, both in terms of Alberta’s ability to compete for visitors in fiercely competitive global markets and in support of local business and destination marketing efforts that depend on predictable and sustainable funding.
While TIAA is encouraged by language contained in the government’s A Blueprint for Jobs, Fiscal Plan 2020-23, the unfortunate reality is that government has set the conditions of an improving economy as a basis for taking action on one of the most fundamental challenges facing the tourism industry right now: the lack of sustainable funding. With three out of five jobs in our province connected to the visitor economy, Alberta depends on a strong, vibrant tourism industry.
One of the key recommendations TIAA tendered to the Government of Alberta regarding the development of the 10-year tourism strategy was that 100% of Alberta Tourism Levy Funds (ATL) should be directly allocated to Travel Alberta to support the development of tourism businesses and sustainable destinations and to market Alberta to the world.
With the release of the government’s 10-Year Tourism Strategy (expected this spring), TIAA is calling on the government to meaningfully demonstrate its commitment to support its $20B growth target by making an in-year budget decision to, at a minimum, restore Travel Alberta’s funding to pre-NDP 2015 funding levels.
Alida Visbach Darren Reeder
TIAA Board Chair TIAA Board Advisor
Cell: 403.816.7121 Cell: 403.493.4327
The Tourism Industry Association of Alberta (TIAA) is a not-for-profit, tourism association that advocates on behalf of all segments of Alberta’s tourism economy for a competitive and sustainable business environment that generates substantial economic value for the province.