Years ago I promised myself that when travelling on business three or more time zones away, I would make sure to arrive at my destination at least 36 hours before my first formal engagement to allow my body clock to get adjusted, get some exercise and find my bearings. That way I could count on being acclimatized, well rested and attentive in meetings as opposed to zoning out and regrettably missing important information or dialogue.
Unfortunately, due to time constraints, flight delays and other factors, I haven’t been able to keep that commitment. Often I’ve arrived at my destination the night before, gone to bed late (i.e. on pacific time vs. eastern time), and showed up to meetings the next morning dog tired and in desperate need of strong coffee to get me through the day. Thankfully, I haven’t fallen asleep in any meeting yet and conversely, even managed to concentrate and contribute.
Last week, I embarked on another quick trip to Ottawa to attend an informative Tourism HR Canada (THRC) briefing with colleagues from across the country. Notwithstanding the urge take a nap at one point, I learned so much about all the work THRC is doing, as well as the incredible wealth of resources they’ve built for our industry. I was also able to provide input into the tools THRC are creating to help operators train staff and equip business owners with the knowledge and skills to be better employers. It proved to be a very worthwhile session.
At various points throughout the day, I also discovered what other jurisdictions have done on workforce development and advocacy…which gave me some excellent ideas to explore for BC’s tourism sector in the coming months. For example, Prince Edward Island’s Tourism Industry Association received a provincial grant to hire three counsellors to help its members with mental health. Tourism operators, employees and family members are able to access up to six free counselling sessions without a referral. Talk about progressive.
Another nugget I heard about was the study that Alberta’s Tourism Industry Association (TIAA) commissioned to verify the economic and employment impact of the tourism industry (before and during COVID) relative to other industries. The report also looked at their government’s policy approach and financial support for the visitor economy vis-a-vis other sectors (& compared to BC) and offered recommendations to strengthen investment and job creation to help Alberta achieve its objective to double tourism expenditures by 2030.
While similar research on tourism’s economic impact is done annually in BC, the challenges Alberta’s visitor economy faces also ring true here. The TIAA report cites limited or non-existent mandates across relevant government departments to support the industry and advance new projects. It also denotes limited financial and staff resources within Travel Alberta and the various ministries that touch the tourism file. Sound familiar?
As I dug deeper, I discovered other parallels such as the need to improve how the tourism industry is evaluated and prioritized in provincial crown land use decision-making. Moreover, to effectively advance the industry, tourism needs to be enabled with “a supportive crown land policy framework, especially on public lands, that views outdoor recreation [and tourism] as an industry, and one prioritized for growth,” according to TIAA.
In the coming weeks, TIABC’s Policy Committee will review the Alberta report’s key takeaways to see if they might help inform our own advocacy priorities going forward. In the meantime, I’ve also shared a copy of the study with decision-makers in BC, as well as with my fellow Tourism Renewal Initiative Steering Committee colleagues.
To the average person, flying over nine hours to Ottawa and back in less than 36 hours may not seem practical, smart, or particularly sustainable. However, aside from being able to help shape some of Tourism HR Canada’s major initiatives, for me it was worth the knowledge I gleaned from industry colleagues at THRC and from across Canada…even though I was dog tired for a couple of days afterward and surviving on strong coffee.