Municipalities squabble over Tourism Victoria funding

Part II in a series look at tourism around the Island

It may be a tourist’s haven in the summer, but municipalities around the region have squabbled for years about who pays to keep visitors pulling out their wallets to come to Vancouver Island.

“From our point of view, we look after our own residents rather than the summer touristy crowd,” said Langford Mayor Stew Young. “Every municipality has to look at its strengths, and it is hard to do marketing year round, but we have our focus on pulling in sports teams and giving our residents great entertainment, and we do an excellent job of that.”

Langford isn’t alone in that philosophy, and has made a conscious choice not to dedicate its hotel tax to Tourism Victoria – the organization that is largely credited for drawing in the estimated three million tourists visit Victoria each year.

Though Tourism Victoria stopped doing exit surveys due to cost in 2009, which tracked exact visitor numbers, said Tourism Victoria board chair Dave Cowen, more sophisticated marketing tools through Trip Advisor, Stats Canada and web statistics keeps the organization knowing where to market.

In 2012, the top-five incoming destinations were from Europe, the U.S. and Mexico, Washington, other parts of Canada and B.C.

And though Victoria is not seeing the kind of tourists it saw 10 years ago, Cowen said, that’s “a Canadian issue more than a destination issue.”

“The figures can be really misleading,” Cowen said. “Sept. 11 changed everything, and the visitor economy is still trying to recalibrate in Canada, so we have to work even harder to make sure that happens.”

Currently, seven out of 13 south Island municipalities hold a membership, which chimes in at $695 a year – or $395 for a reduced rate – and entitles participants to a listing on TourismVictoria.ca and in the annual Vacation Guide, social media tools, a brochure rack at the Visitor Centre, visitor maps, decals and voting rights (reduced members lose their listing in the Vacation Guide and visitor sections of the website).

Members also receive special promotions, discounts and sales leads, and more benefits can be included for $350 each add-on.

The Town of Sidney is pleased with the contributions its membership grants.

Mayor Larry Cross said the 15 per cent increase in American ferry traffic from Anacortes is mainly due to the tourism pull of Butchart Gardens and other elements the Island is known for, which benefits everyone – even though Sidney is already fortunate to have a strong manufacturing industry.

Interestingly, Butchart Gardens is a private member with Tourism Victoria, while Central Saanich, where the hotspot is located, is not.

Cross said Sidney benefits from plenty of “run-off traffic” from the Gardens, as well as ferry passengers on their way through.

“Tourism is the most significant economy we have, and any supportive marketing we can do is a good thing,” Cross said. “All vessels rise together when the water comes up.”

Still, Sooke is one municipality that prefers to go it alone. The Sooke Region Tourism Association is funded by a provincial and municipal grant. It offers membership at $125 a year, and is working on collecting a hotel tax from the three hotels and bed and breakfasts in the area.

“There’s always been the criticism that our voice is smothered by bigger interests,” said Sooke acting mayor Maya Tait.

“How do we get the representation? We do like the fact that we are our own entity, and Sooke is a volunteer-based community. Making a trip into town is time spent away from helping our own community.”

Despite its small budget, Sooke has forged successful partnerships with Tourism Vancouver Island, Tofino, Blackball Transport out of Port Angeles and the province of Alberta. Other areas on the north peninsula have taken a similar lead.

Though Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin won’t weigh in on whether it’s fair for some municipalities to benefit from the central pull without contributing, he does point to the need for every arm of the region to view membership as an essential investment.

“The reach of Tourism Victoria is so high, and it just doesn’t make sense for each of the municipalities to market themselves,” Fortin said.

“This is an industry we all need to continue to promote and, no matter where you live, it’s good for the whole.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rebecca Lang of Any Thyme Gardening installed a seed exchange library in front of her home on Beechwood Avenue. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Victoria gardeners scramble to create local seed exchanges

Fairfield resident’s seed exchange an instant hit

On Feb. 27, a construction vehicle remained on the site of the former encampment between the Pat Bay Highway and McKenzie Avenue as part a clean-up effort. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Encampment between Pat Bay Highway, McKenzie Avenue cleared, all residents relocated

Efforts to disband encampment resumed after January fire

Sooke resident Nathan Hanson popped both his driver’s side tires on a pothole near a construction site on Sooke Road. Hanson said he was following a line of traffic and was just before the 17 Mile Pub when he drove over the pothole. (Photo contributed/Nathan Hanson)
Driver blows two tires on pothole near construction site on Sooke Road

Ministry of Transportation says keeping highways in good condition a priority

Environment Canada has issued a wind warning for Greater Victoria, with winds expected to get up to 70 km/h Friday morning. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Wind warning promises blustery Friday for Greater Victoria

Winds up to 70 km/h expected Friday morning

Passengers in rows 13 to 19 on Air Canada Jazz flight 8069 from Vancouver to Victoria Feb. 28 were exposed to a case of COVID-19. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
COVID-19 exposure found on flight from Vancouver to Victoria

Passengers in rows 13 to 19 on Air Canada Jazz flight 8069 Feb. 28 affected

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 2

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

The intersection of Melrose Street and Third Avenue. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Suspect in custody after two pedestrians struck in Port Alberni hit and run

RCMP asking for video footage, credit witnesses for quick arrest

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

Comox Valley RCMP had access to 20 Street blocked off between Cousins and Choquette avenues as they conducted a raid of a house on the block. Photo by Terry Farrell
Comox Valley RCMP raid Courtenay problem house, several arrests made

Comox Valley RCMP conducted a raid of a problem house on 20th… Continue reading

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

A Cowichan Valley mom is wondering why masks haven’t been mandated for elementary schools. (Metro Creative photo)
B.C. mom frustrated by lack of mask mandate for elementary students

“Do we want to wait until we end up like Fraser Health?”

Most Read