The new Minister for tourism, Bill Fraser, has a good commentary in the TJ today talking about how the new government is “ready to invest in tourism”.
It’s nice to see they are now using the right return on the taxpayer investment language. They used to talk about how the millions of government spending on tourism would generate new ‘revenue’ for the tourism industry and come up with some multiple. That is the wrong numerator. If the denominator is the tax dollars invested in tourism marketing, the numerator is incremental tax dollars generated as a result of that marketing – not general revenue to the industry.
But the main issue remains. As I wrote about a few weeks ago, tourism industry revenue has been flat for years. Despite a massively ambitious new tourism strategy in 2010 that was focused entirely on growing revenue, industry revenue declined (based on the most recent data we have access to).
I think we need to have an honest conversation about the tourism industry and its ‘growth’ potential given the local, national and international context.
Again, I like tourism. What I don’t like is our tendency to talk loosely about ‘growth’ potential without any serious analysis. It would be okay for me if the tourism folks said “we don’t expect much growth in the coming years because of conditions x and y but we still see value in investing $13 million in tourism marketing to keep the industry from declining further”.
It just raises even more cynicism when you throw out all those rosy growth forecasts and it doesn’t happen.
In addition, an honest appraisal of the situation may lead to changes in approach. Maybe we need to link tourism more closely to immigration. Maybe we need to spend more time trying to attract tourism-related infrastructure investment rather than on marketing what we currently have.
Every time I work with local communities on economic development strategies I ask the question “who is out promoting the community for tourism infrastructure investment?” – new hotels, new tourism attractions, etc. The answer is always no one.
In a business setting if the product isn’t selling, maybe you need to work on the product. I think it is a good idea to blend different tourism assets and experiences into themes but maybe we could use a few new tourism assets.
Anyway, I wish the new Minister well.