While most of the country suffered through what can be best characterized as a cold and wet spring, it’s quickly shaping up to be a hot summer season.

With the Canadian dollar still showing strength, a new government comfortably ensconced in Ottawa and a lukewarm economy teetering on the brink of recovery, one can only hope an increasing number of visitors have reason to flock to Canada.

Certainly, as a destination Canada has a great deal to offer these days. But as associate editor J.D. Ney’s feature story on tourism aptly illustrates, the state of Canadian tourism is perturbing and frustrating at best. When one considers that several emerging markets are now travelling with greater ease — not to mention China’s Approved Destination Status — and this country’s continued strong profile on the world stage thanks to our solid showing during the 2010 Winter Olympics, not withstanding Vancouver’s embarrassing showing post Stanley Cup, it bodes well for the future.

Ironically, while Canada is ranked number 1 in terms of global tourism brand; the number of international tourists travelling to this country is down significantly.

Still, by all indicators business travel is up and hotels continue to offer more value to their customers. And with Toronto’s luxury market now firmly established and several more high-end offerings to come to market in the next year, the city finally has a portfolio of world-class properties to promote. Understandably, the question on most people’s minds these days is whether the city can sustain this growth of luxury properties.

Given the challenges in attracting increased tourists, the prohibitive cost of travel and the lack of marketing funds necessary to drive promotions, perhaps the more appropriate questions we should be asking are why can’t we better promote this country, and why can’t we ensure the infrastructure needed is in place to allow us to grow as we should?

For hoteliers, the frustration is palpable. How can you expect the hotel industry to fill a greater number of rooms when we’re spending less money to promote our country than countries such as Greece and Ireland? Furthermore, can we expect our tourism numbers to grow when so much bureaucratic wrangling prevents visitors from wanting to travel here? As David Goldstein, president of Ottawa-based TIAC says, “If we want to get our share, we’re going to have to change some of the competitive imbalances that exist in this country.” For one, Canada’s core funding has declined from $100 million in 2001 to an anticipated $71 million in 2012. Secondly, the matter of air travel competitiveness needs to be addressed. Put simply, our air fares, landing fees and tariffs make it prohibitive to fly here. As Michelle McKenzie, president of the Canadian Tourism Commission says, “We can be the best marketers in the world, and inspire potential travellers to choose Canada, but if they can’t get an airline seat or easily apply for a visa, then our efforts are largely in vain.”

After years of complaining about this issue, and watching it reach a boiling point, isn’t it time for industry’s stakeholders to come together to collectively impact the powers that be to make significant changes?


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