Mungall pleased that Destination BC will help Kootenay tourism

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Nelson – Powder skiing at Whitewater, dancing at Shambala, history at the Kaslo Hotel, golfing in Crawford Bay and agri-tourism in the Creston Valley were all recognized by MLA Michelle Mungall as important parts of the region’s tourism sector in the legislature on Monday.  Mungall was speaking in support of the creation of Destination BC, a crown corporation with a mandate to market BC as a tourist destination.

“The point is that all of these places in Nelson-Creston will be benefiting from a coordinated approach to tourism,” Mungall told the house after listing over a dozen tourism operators, businesses and events from the region.

Mungall did express some reservations about the funding and leadership of the organization. She urged that Destination BC be industry led, so that it would not be used to play political games, and that funding to the organization be transparent and stable.

To close her remarks Mungall said she was glad the government responded to calls from the tourism industry and calls from the opposition to re- establish a coordinated approach to tourism, ending, “It’s very much needed, it’s about time, and I’m glad that we’re moving forward with it.”

CLICK HERE to view the video transcript



Afternoon Sitting
M. Mungall: Well, I rise to also express my support, with a few reservations, as previous speakers before me did, for this bill. The reason why I am supportive has also been mentioned, and that’s that this is an answer to a problem that didn’t need to even exist.
What was the problem? It was the destruction of Tourism B.C. All of the stakeholders in the sector of tourism saw the value of Tourism B.C., which was created in the 1990s under an NDP government. They saw the value in having a coordinated approach that was done at arm’s length from government to promote British Columbia, to show the world what we have to offer.
When people want to come on vacation or perhaps on a business trip — whatever it was that was going to cause them to leave home and travel elsewhere — we wanted to show them that British Columbia should be their destination of choice. And we were successful. We did a tremendous job.
We did a tremendous job, and the industry supported it. They led it, and they had the resources to do that tremendous job. Then all of a sudden, for some reason…. They gave many, many stories backing up their rationale for why they, the Liberal government, decided to destroy, to get rid of, Tourism B.C.
I think the member for Vancouver–West End elaborated on those stories, those rationales, very well. I will leave that in his bailiwick, because he has done a tremendous job ever since then in advocating to bring back Tourism B.C. — because it did such a good job, because it did what it was supposed to do.
It was not broken. It didn’t need to be fixed, and it did not need to be destroyed. So here we are today solving a problem that didn’t need to exist. I’m very glad that we’re doing that, though.
I’m very glad to see that here we are looking at Destination B.C., which is in many ways bringing forward that Tourism B.C., bringing it back. It’s responding to the stakeholders around the province who have been saying for years, ever since they lost it, that we need to be doing this again, that this was a best practice, that this did what it needed to do, and that was to share British Columbia with the world.
So here we are. We’re doing that, but there are a few changes, and this is why I said earlier that I have some reservations.
One of those changes, of course, is the requirement for the board to follow written directives from the minister. So the minister is no longer at arm’s length. Rather, the minister — he or she, whoever that may be in the future — can tap in and say: “I want you to do this, and you have to do it. It is a must. It’s in the legislation.”
That’s a concern because, at the end of the day, marketing British Columbia and marketing who we are to the world and what we can offer shouldn’t be a political tool. What it should be about is economic development. Keeping it at arm’s length by keeping it industry-led — that’s what it was. It’s an economic development tool. That’s what it was, and that’s what it ought to be.
This opens up too much opportunity to play politics, and that concerns me. I think we’ve already seen why we need to address that. We have over $16 million going to partisan ads. Taxpayers are paying that bill. We’ve seen how politics can be played here in promoting British Columbia and promoting certain policies. We want to ensure that that doesn’t happen.
That’s why I have some reservation. I think that there’s an opportunity, in moving forward, that perhaps we can address this and strengthen it so that it is indeed an arm’s-length organization.
Another reservation that I have is around the funding formula — that it lacks a certain definition for greater stability. We see here in the funding formula that it’s going to be reliant on the provincial tax sales revenue.
I think it’s good that the source of funding has been defined, but the formula of the actual percentage of what will be going to Destination B.C. — and what will, therefore, be resourced in our ability to market our province — has not been clearly defined in the legislation. It looks like it’s going to be leaving that to regulation. I would prefer a little bit more public accountability to that funding formula, and I’d prefer to see that in the legislation.
I’m sure we’ll be able to deal with some of those questions in committee stage, and I have no doubt our critic for Tourism, the member for Vancouver–West End, will do a fantastic job in addressing that in the committee stage.
One of the good things, though, that is in this bill specifically is regional representation on the tourism marketing committee. I’m a bit concerned, being from a rural area, that our rural representation might not get all the way onto the full board of Destination B.C. I’m sure it will, though.
I’m sure that whoever is appointing members to that board will keep in mind that much of rural B.C. does a tremendous job on tourism.
Madam Speaker, you know I’m going to start getting to my riding soon. But before I do, I just do want to say that the regional representation is a good thing. It ensures that those of us outside of the Lower Mainland will have our voices heard at that table. Here’s why we need to have our voices at that table.
It’s places like in Nelson-Creston, where tourism is indeed a major part of our local economy. We have Whitewater Ski Resort. We have Shambhala Music Festival that attracts 15,000 people to the little town of Salmo — which barely ekes over 1,000 residents — every summer.
We have the Hume Hotel in downtown Nelson, the historic hotel that was founded and built by one of our founders and has seen miners and loggers and tourists all come through there over the last 100 years. Kokanee Springs golf course on the Crawford Bay. Now, you can’t get a better view while you’re golfing than at Kokanee Springs golf course in Crawford Bay.
Kaslo Hotel has done an amazing job at honouring some of its dark past as the home for interned Japanese-Canadians during the Second World War. It has reclaimed that negativity and turned it into a positive for Japanese-Canadian descendants today, including — and I should mention in that vein — Aya Higashi. She has done such a wonderful job in bringing that story to light in our region.
Baldface Lodge — best back-country skiing you’re going to get in B.C., if you ask me.
Then heading over to Creston Valley, of course, the Creston Valley Chamber of Commerce has noted that moving to this type of marketing for tourism, Destination B.C., is great. It’s going to benefit places like the Real Food Café or the Shimmerhorn and Baillie-Grohman wineries or the Alpine Cheese Company, which is now moving into a full agritourism package. When you go to the Creston Valley, you need to dip into some of the cheese and the dairy products that they have there.
The list goes on and on, Madam Speaker. I think you’ve had the benefit of Sutcliffe Farms, which is part of our agritourism, with their wonderful asparagus in the Creston Valley. The point is that all of these places in my region will be benefiting from a coordinated approach to tourism. And that’s what this is — Destination B.C.
I’m very glad that we’re bringing this back, that this government has answered the advocacy done by my colleague from Vancouver–West End, done by all of us here on the opposition benches and done by people within the tourism industry all throughout British Columbia. It’s very much needed, it’s about time, and I’m glad that we’re moving forward with it.