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Feb 16, 2024

TIABC Voice of Tourism Newsletter – February 16, 2024


During a conversation with a professional colleague from Northern BC a couple of weeks ago, the topic of weather came up. I mentioned taking advantage of unseasonably warm temperatures to go for a long bike ride. He expressed dismay over grass growing in his yard when it should have been buried waist deep in snow.

As you know, spring-like temperatures, little rain, and a low snowpack in many parts of BC are likely to lead to water shortages and the resurfacing of an estimated 100 ground fires that nature has yet to extinguish.

Regrettably for TIABC, our sector, DMO and business members, the Tourism Emergency Management Committee (TEMC), the province and dozens of communities, the likelihood of more wildfires continues to be one of the primary issues on the radar for the foreseeable future. In fact, I’ve had numerous meetings in recent weeks on wildfires alone.

In late January, professional colleagues Dale Wheeldon (BC Economic Development Association), Ellen Walker-Matthews (TOTA) and I met with the Premier’s Expert Task Force on Emergencies to offer our recommendations on how the province can leverage the expertise and resources of the tourism sector when wildfires and other crises occur.

Earlier this week, I met with an adventure tourism business owner whose operation was nearly wiped out entirely by a wildfire that could have been contained if the right decisions were made at the right time. He sought my advice on a six-page submission to government on ways to prevent calamities like the one his business experienced.

As I alluded to in my message last Friday, I met with a 50-year resident of the Shuswap who was busy pounding the pavement in Victoria this week, and along with the aforementioned tourism operator, offered a number of suggestions for government action. To name but a few:

A. Crews should not be allowed to leave a threatened area until a wildfire has been contained.

B. More air surveillance must be deployed to monitor fire activity.

C. Authorities need to deploy a more effective warning system, as well as develop better communication protocols for residents and businesses directly impacted by a looming wildfire.

D. Senior governments should consider some form of financial support to help with supplemental insurance coverage for businesses currently unable to obtain protection due to their location (i.e. within an at-risk fire zone).

E. Senior governments should consider some form of financial support for underinsured businesses that were damaged or destroyed by wildfires but were denied full coverage or received no firefighting services.

F. The province should allow local contractors and foresters (i.e. experts with intimate knowledge of an area and terrain) to bolster firefighting efforts.

G. The province should allow rural residents to protect their properties (without risk of fines) if no other firefighting options exist.

I’m not a firefighting expert but at first blush there appears to be some merit to these suggestions.

A few days ago, I met with an assistant professor at Thompson Rivers University, who also doubles as the Canada Research Chair in Fire Ecology, to discuss TIABC’s involvement in a new symposium entitled, Coexisting with Wildfires in BC: Impacts and Solutions, which will bring together a diverse array of voices, including Indigenous leaders, scientific experts and impacted groups, to review the 2023 wildfires, and more importantly, explore potential solutions. Stay tuned for further information on the symposium in the coming weeks.

This past Wednesday, the province announced more support in the form of firefighting equipment, safety gear, medical and hygiene equipment, as well as two mass water-delivery systems (e.g. helicopter, fixed wing aircraft) that will be used for fire suppression and flood operations. It’s a positive step as the Premier’s Task Force continues its critical work. On a related note, the TEMC continues its work to advance recommendations to government and prepare our sector for what lies ahead. Some of our plans will be shared in a dedicated workshop (with Dale Wheeldon as one of the speakers) at the upcoming BC Tourism Industry Conference in Victoria.

While spring on the South Coast usually arrives ahead of the rest of the province, it’s far too early for me to be riding my bike regularly (as I’ve been doing), or to be watching my neighbours cut their lawns and pluck weeds. While I generally prefer warm, dry weather, I’m honestly hoping for buckets of rain and tons of snow in the weeks ahead to help mitigate the impacts of drought and wildfires on tourism businesses and communities, not only where I live but in parts of the BC that desperately need it.

Walt Judas,


Related Posts

TIABC Director Dennis Innes (VCC Dean of Hospitality, Culinary & Baking) and CEO Walt Judas joined term 8 hospitality students, industry leaders, recent graduates, and faculty for a Philosopher's Cafe to discuss the state of the tourism and hospitality workforce this week at VCC's downtown Vancouver campus.
TIABC CEO Walt Judas with Tourism Abbotsford’s Barb Roberts & Clare Seeley, as well as VCM’s Chad Wetsch on a site visit to a land-based Tilapia fish farm owned and operated by the Sumas First Nation who are expanding their Fraser Valley holdings with ambitious plans to bolster Abbotsford’s tourism infrastructure and experiences.
As he does regularly, TIABC CEO Walt Judas recently presented to tourism students and faculty at @westerncommunitycollege's (WCC) Surrey campus, focussing on industry issues and TIABC's advocacy priorities. Walt also serves on WCC's Program Advisory Committee (PAC), as well as the PACs of @capilanou and @myvcc.
🍽️ What an incredible farm-to-table experience! Backyard Farm Proprietor and Chef Chris Van Hooydonk welcomed TOTA's Board of Directors and guests Walt Judas, Richard Porges (DBC CEO) and Scott Fraser (DBC Chair) for a memorable meal in Osoyoos this week.

Chris's culinary philosophy focuses on utilizing the freshest, locally sourced ingredients to create unique, tailored menus for each visit. With a commitment to true hospitality, the experience is marked by attentive service and a passion for showcasing the beauty of the South Okanagan.

Also pictured, Destination Osoyoos Executive Director Kelley Glazer, TOTA CEO Ellen Walker Matthews, and TOTA's Jane Parece. 

A huge thank you to Chris for providing such a delightful culinary experience! 🌿
🎉 Highlights from the 2024 BC Tourism Industry Conference in Victoria! 🌟

Close to 450 tourism industry professionals convened in Victoria last week for the annual 2024 BC Tourism Industry Conference, hosted by TIABC. Industry leaders representing businesses, sector associations, regional and community destination management organizations, First Nations, federal, provincial and municipal governments, as well as non-government organizations gathered for the two-day event. 

Anchored by the conference theme - Shaping Our Future Together - the outstanding program provided both a knowledge and skills track via plenary sessions and workshops. Here are just a few highlights:

▪️ Opening keynote speaker Shaun Boothe shared a unique and emotional celebration of some of the world's most influential cultural icons. His energy and messages set the stage for the entire event.

▪️ Hon. Lana Popham, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture & Sport kicked off the conference by welcoming delegates and sharing her own personal story of working in BC's tourism industry.

▪️ Plenary Remarks by Hon. Soraya Martinez Ferrada: Insights from the Minister of Tourism and Economic Development Agency of Canada highlighted the industry's significance.

▪️TIABC CEO Walt Judas engaged in a compelling conversation with Premier David Eby whose remarks underscored the vital role of the tourism industry in British Columbia, earning him a standing ovation.

▪️ Opening Reception at the Royal BC Museum

A big thank you to all our sponsors for making this event possible! 🙌
Join us in celebrating the remarkable winners of the 2024 BC Tourism Industry Awards Gala presented by @indigenoustourismbc! 🎉✨ 

Ten awards were given out to recognize and celebrate excellence, leadership, and innovation within British Columbia’s tourism and hospitality sector. These awards showcased the province’s most exceptional leaders and positive change-makers this past year.

The winners of the 2024 BC Tourism Industry Awards are:

Business Woman of the Year Award - Sponsored by Prince of Whales
⭐ Winner: Ingrid Jarrett, @bchotelassociation 

Community Contribution & Impact - Sponsored by Tourism Richmond
⭐Winner: @princeofwhaleswhalewatching 

DMO Professional Excellence - Sponsored by BC Regional Tourism Secretariat (BCRTS)
⭐Winner: @visitrichmondbc 

Employees First - Sponsored by go2HR
⭐Winner: @golfbc 

Inclusive and Accessible Tourism Experience - Sponsored by Destination BC
⭐Winner: Vancouver Aquarium

Indigenous Operator or Experience | Sponsored by Indigenous Tourism BC and Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada
⭐Winner: @homalcotours

Innovation | Sponsored by Tourism Innovation Lab
⭐Winner: @tourismnewwest 

Remarkable Experience | Sponsored by BC Destination Management Organization Association (BCDMOA)
⭐Winner: @nimmobayresort

Sector Association Excellence Award | Sponsored by Acera Insurance
⭐Winner: Sport Fishing Institute of BC

Sustainability Excellence | Sponsored by Nanaimo Airport
⭐Winner: @40knotswinery 

📸 @arkitekcreative