Joly touts tourism plan

John K. White

Federal Tourism Minister Melanie Joly told Vernon and area Chamber of Commerce members at a roundtable breakfast meeting in Armstrong Thursday morning that the recently unveiled tourism strategy will finally give the sector a seat at the adult table.

"My biggest job coming into this new portfolio was to make sure I would defend the 1.8 million people working in the sector and build the credibility of tourism in the eyes of people working in Ottawa," Joly said.

"We need to work on the supply, on what international tourists can actually do when they are in Canada. How can we ultimately make sure that we have new tourism experiences, new things to offer international visitors?" 

Joly pointed out that the biggest issue in the tourism sector is international tourists mainly go to the three big cities in Canada.

"Particularly, they come during the summer time. Our idea is to build a sustainable industry, and to do that we need to have a year-long season. We need to invest in winter and shoulder seasons. We also need to make sure that people who come to our three big cities, afterwards, go to our different regions," Joly said.

She also talked about the importance of supporting indigenous communities and their efforts to attract tourism.

"There is 17 per cent growth in indigenous tourism in Canada. How can we help strategic planning in the region?" Joly asked rhetorically.

Joly said a growing percentage of international tourists are looking to experience authentic indigenous culture when visiting Canada. After relaying the work being done to enhance indigenous communities' ability to tell their stories to visitors through funding and training, Joly received a lengthy applause break from chamber members.

"Tourism is increasingly an important component of the local economic fabric, and the federal strategy may create opportunities for us through strategic planning in rural areas, food tourism, attracting more visitors during the shoulder seasons and indigenous tourism," added Deb White, Greater Vernon Chamber director.

An infusion of federal funding and a renewed national focus on tourism was welcome news to the Armstrong Spallumcheen and Greater Vernon chambers of commerce.

During the question and answer session, several issues arose, including funding for the rail trail from Armstrong to Sicamous, the need for additional resources for indigenous tourism, support for fairs, affordable housing for tourism workers in local communities and the need to keep the backcountry open while protecting caribou.

About 90 people attended the roundtable, including representatives from the Splatsin and North Okanagan-Shuswap local governments as well as MP Mel Arnold and MLA Eric Foster.       

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