Destination BC executive (from left) Maya Lange, vice-president, global marketing; Grant Mackay, vice-president, destination management; and Marsha Walden, president and CEO. - Image: Barry Gerding/Black Press

Tourism strategy embraces digital technology

Digital platform initiatives to reach out directly to tourists lauded at Kelowna conference

A powerful marketing network initiative championed by Destination BC is expected to give the province a distinct edge in an increasingly competitive global tourism market.

The strategy will start to take form for potential global visitors with the launching of the HelloBC website in May, a collaboration of shared data from tourist businesses, communities and regions across the province.

Destination BC president Marsha Walden said B.C.’s tourism community is collaborating like no other tourism industry in the world to collectively tout the province’s tourism opportunities rather than working in individual silos.

“The tourism industry of B.C. is built on a network of networks. Now we are engaging in the technology platforms to use that networking leverage,” said Walden.

“We will have a shared marketing engine like no other in the world.”

Related: Tourism labour shortage issues addressed

Walden made the comments as a keynote speaker at the B.C. Tourism Industry Conference taking place Thursday and Friday at the The Delta Grand Conference Centre.

Walden said Destination BC has clearly recognized that promoting tourism is tied to taking advantage of technology to improve digital access directly to customers, saying the industry has moved from reliance on the visitor centre brick and mortar concept to online platforms.

She said 190 million unique impressions were related to B.C. tourism inquiries in 2017 and 490,000 business leads for were directly related to online inquiries.

While the wildfires and flooding were a setback to the tourism industry last year, Walden said the 7.9 per cent tourism revenue growth in 2016 is a greater reflection of how tourism is evolving into B.C.’s most impactful industry, ahead of forestry, resource extraction or oil and gas development.

“Our industry is a powerhouse with the social, cultural and economic benefits it generates for our province,” Walden said.

But the global competitiveness, she added, is reflected in the tourism growth shown in other countries last year—New Zealand up seven per cent, New South Wales territory in Australia up nine per cent and Iceland up 24 per cent.

“California saw an increase of four per cent. It contributed $5.2 billion to their economy in one year, (that’s) 5.2 billion dollars,” Walden proclaimed, citing the potential tourism growth example that B.C. is in position to take advantage of.

Related: TOTA recognized for responsible tourism

Glenn Mandziuk, chief executive officer of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, said our region is an example of how collaboration among industry players is realizing a greater benefit for growing local tourism markets.

“This is the fifth year we have been working on our destination development and management initiatives. When we started, 80 per cent of the revenue generated by our tourism operators was within a 45 day period during the summer,” Mandziuk said.

“That presents a challenge to survive if it didn’t change.”

He said TOTA has embraced marketing initiatives for the Kettle Valley Rail Trail experience, Farm To Table agriculture, the history behind Highway 97 that connects the region to Alaska in the north and northern California to the south and sustainable environment practices such as promoting access to 1,000 electric vehicle charging stations across the region.

“We are starting to see greater visitor dispersion beyond just those 45 days. Our tourism market is now not just about summer fun in the sun but the many other tourist experiences that we have to offer,” Mandziuk said.

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