by Neil Hartling
Earlier this year, the Department of Tourism and Culture organized an event in Vancouver to help boost awareness of the Yukon in Japanese markets. The event was a big success, in large part due to the presence of both the Yukon’s premier and minister of tourism and culture. Their involvement was appreciated by the industry and is a great example of what can be achieved when our government and our industry work together.
In the last few months it has become clear that parts of the Yukon’s economy are slumping and that one of the few areas primed for immediate growth is tourism. The Yukon government has acknowledged this.
After strategic analysis and consultation with some of the industry’s most experienced marketers, the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon asked the government to increase the Department of Tourism and Culture’s marketing budget by $2.5 million per year for the next two years for the creation of an effective domestic marketing campaign. If the campaign is proven successful, TIAY has asked that $2.5 million be added to the core marketing budget going forward. This would have a multiplying effect throughout the Yukon economy.
The Yukon brand stands strong against competitors, but we need greater market penetration if we truly hope to capitalize on the territory’s tourism potential. Greater investments in tourism marketing would benefit all business in the territory, showcasing the Yukon as a great place to visit, as well as a great place to work and to do business. This can help attract not only visitors, but also skilled labourers and business interests, all boosting the economy.
The Department of Tourism and Culture’s core marketing budget is approximately $4.5 million, which is very small in marketing terms. The department has done great things over the years, but it can only do so much with its limited resources.
The tourism marketing budget hasn’t received a significant increase in over a decade. At this point, even an increase of $1 million, while a step in the right direction, still wouldn’t even catch up with 10 years of inflation. We have unused capacity that is waiting to be filled, and requires greater market awareness. We need a major boost to the marketing budget if we are to remain competitive and maximize the return to the Yukon economy.
There is no better time for Yukon tourism than right now. If we don’t act soon, the Yukon will be left waiting on the dock watching the ships sail by.
The Yukon government says it is business friendly; it says that tourism is a priority and that tourism is a critical part of a diverse economy. We need the government to back these words up with a strategic investment. Last March, the government announced a $72.8 million surplus; in comparison, a $2.5 million per year increase to support tourism, an industry known for providing a great return on investment, is a reasonable request and would be a sound financial decision.
TIAY’s request is supported by the Yukon Chamber of Commerce and the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, and TIAY is hopeful that the Yukon government will also support it. The amount allocated to tourism marketing this year will reflect the government’s commitment to tourism and the value that it places on the industry.
We hope that it has the courage and vision needed to make this vital investment in order to benefit the Yukon’s economy in the years to come.
Neil Hartling is chair of the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon.