The federal government has created an advisory council on tourism in a bid to bolster the economic potential of Canada’s tourism industry.
Frank McKenna, the former premier of New Brunswick, will chair the Advisory Council on Jobs and the Visitor Economy, which will consist of 11 people, including Kathleen Taylor, who is the current chair of the board of the Royal Bank of Canada and the former CEO of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, and Chief Darcy Bear of the Whitecap Dakota First Nation in Saskatchewan.
“I really think the sector has been overlooked for a long time. It has somehow been snubbed by certain decision makers, but it’s my job to champion it and help build its credibility,” says Mélanie Joly, the Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie, who hand-picked the council and announced its creation in Niagara Falls today.
Joly says there is growth potential in tourism, which currently makes up about two per cent of Canada’s GDP. “The tourism sector is growing at a rate of about four per cent around the world, and we want to take advantage of that, not just in the three big cities of Canada, but also in many rural regions, which will be great to create really good middle-class jobs. That’s our vision — to build an economic strategy through the tourism sector for the country.”
Joly says she’d like to see Canada return to being among the top 10 places in the world tourists visit. “During the Vancouver Olympics, we were a top 10 destination,” she says, “and now we’re in 17th position.”
Joly adds she wants to launch the federal strategy in the coming months, well before the next federal election. “Because let’s be frank — we don’t have a lot of time, and we want to make sure that we do this before the end of our mandate. Certain issues will be able to be dealt with, but some will be much more mid-term and long term. Obviously, we will have to have some short-term wins, but we’ll also have to have a vision for the next five years.”
Joly today begins a week-long cross-Canada tour to promote the work of the council and meet with local travel and tourism experts.