Destination B.C. (DBC) has issued a letter to stakeholders outlining more details about proposed changes to the way it distributes funding for marketing to the regions.
Bulkley Valley tourism stakeholders last week raised concerns about planned changes which would aim to align the work of regional tourism associations, such as Northern B.C. Tourism (NBCT), with the provincial marketing strategy.
Tourism Smithers marketing director Gladys Attrill told The Interior News last week she feared the Bulkley Valley would only receive funding if it aligned with a province-wide marketing plan devised in the lower mainland, citing a lack of communication from DBC about the changes.
On Oct. 6, after she was interviewed by The Interior News, DBC chief executive Marsha Walden issued a letter to stakeholders outlining more details about the proposed changes and expressing her regrets about a perceived lack of transparency.
“Some aspects of our proposed programs have become public and, in the absence of information from Destination B.C., this has generated interest in communities and the industry,” wrote Walden.
“It is always our intent to be as transparent as possible, while respectful of our contractual relationships, and I sincerely regret the lack of communication that many of you feel you have experienced from us.”
The letter also said changes were needed after stating industry consultation indicated more of the $90 million dedicated to regional marketing organizations like NBCT should be invested in marketing, not administration.
“The similar functions, overlapping roles, blurred lines of responsibility, fragmented marketing, and incremental productivity and value of these activities are questioned by many in our industry,” said Walden.
“We need to become more effective by defining highly-valued, highly-differentiated, integrated and interdependent roles for ourselves and in our work with partners.”
Included in the letter is a “draft vision for new programs” with additional information about plans to increase cooperative marketing funding, decentralize access to funds and improve strategic alignment with DBC’s brand positioning.
Tourism minister Shirley Bond also responded to concerns raised by Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach about whether the changes would impact local tourism marketing.
“DBC is going to consult widely with RDMOs and with industry stakeholders so that each region’s unique marketing needs are met,” said Bond.
“It is critical that there be consultation to ensure that regions and organizations have the ability to provide input from a local and regional perspective.”
Value in regional staff says Smithers director
The letter also said that since the inception of DBC 18 months ago, the board and executive team met with hundreds of stakeholders to learn about the strategies and programs that the tourism industry is seeking.
“B.C. has approximately 18,000 tourism businesses, so while hundreds of industry stakeholders sounds good, it is a very small fraction of what is out there. I am unaware of any consultation with businesses in this area,” said Atrill when asked for her response to the letter.
The letter’s statement that more of the $90 million in the district marketing organizations (DMO) system was to be invested in marketing and not administration also caught Atrill’s attention, specifically the amount of money DBC was referring to.
“The $90 million referred to is made up of approximately $50 million from the province to DBC. The rest is the budgets of city DMOs via B.C.’s MRDT (municipal/regional district tax — formerly two per cent hotel tax or resort tax). Communities that collect that money spend it on tourism promotion or things related to tourism. DBC is altering the way communities can access co-operative marketing dollars. DMOs are to work more directly with DBC. That means to access co-op dollars, the community must align itself with DBC. We will no longer be in charge of our marketing if we want co-op dollars,” responded Atrill.
The Tourism Smithers marketing director agreed that many programs are ripe for change, but Atrill could not agree with the direction DBC is moving.
“What is not good for this community or others in northern B.C. is the elimination or reduction of the strength in our regional DMO. It is simply untrue to characterize the expert and passionate staff living in our region working to develop and market tourism with words like incremental productivity. We get incredible value from those staff precisely because we in the communities don’t have all of the expertise ourselves. We are small community DMOs.
“In northern B.C. there are very few DMOs… Tourism Prince Rupert, Kermodei Tourism in Terrace (no MRDT), Tourism Smithers, Tourism Prince George (a large DMO) and Tourism Dawson Creek (no MRDT). There are no overlapping roles, blurred lines of responsibility etc. In this region we work together among the communities, and pool are resources with NBCTA to get the very best bang for our buck.
“There is very good reason to have experts in the regions as no matter how good people are living and working in Vancouver, they cannot represent Northern communities as well as people who live here too.
“Much money is general for provincial coffers in northern B.C. and some of it should simply be returned to these communities. If there is duplication and incremental productivity, perhaps more people should be moved out of Vancouver offices into the regions,” concluded Atrill.