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Jul 6, 2023

TIABC Voice of Tourism Newsletter – June 30, 2023

TIABC

CEO MESSAGE

Considering that I begrudgingly took the same grade 10 math course three times before I passed, it’s ironic that I work with numbers all day applying some form of analysis, forecasting, addition, subtraction, or percentage calculation to virtually everything I do.

It’s as basic as projecting how long it will take me to complete a specific task or commute to a meeting. On an even more obscure level, I have a habit of counting the number of people in a meeting or trying to estimate how many books are on the shelves of a used bookstore…but I digress.

Like many in our sector, a large part of my job revolves around facts, figures, research, data, records, and stats. And I appreciate receiving this type of information from various partners to help inform TIABC’s policy positions.

Case in point…at a sector engagement session (hosted by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy) on the province’s impending recreation strategy and service transformation initiative, I keenly poured over a document that showed BC has more provincial parks than Alberta, Ontario and Quebec combined (1039 vs. 836). Among other things, I also learned the province oversees some 2283 recreation sites, 28,000 kms of managed trails and other public assets for residents and visitors to enjoy. But bragging rights wasn’t the real reason for the workshop. It was more about how we manage these vast resources going forward.

Attendees heard that the public service delivery of outdoor recreation hasn’t seen any substantive structural or functional changes for nearly two decades (or 240 months if you prefer). Moreover, a new approach is desperately needed to balance public interests, as well as for conservation and stewardship of valuable provincial resources. However, given the growing list of stakeholders and mounting issues on the land base, developing new policies and regulations won’t be easy or quick.

Among the concerns identified: there is increasing demand and in some cases, overcrowding of parks and trails, putting a strain on infrastructure and fragile ecosystems; wildfires and flooding have resulted in temporary closures or safety risks in many areas; there is limited research to quantify economic and non-market values of crown assets; trails and facilities are deteriorating; public access is insufficient or constricted; and for the tourism industry, provincial processes for permit approvals are cumbersome to say the least.

Government’s goal is to position the province and Indigenous communities to plan, develop and/or manage the diverse range of outdoor recreation opportunities going forward…which is all well and good provided it includes tourism…or as bureaucrats like to say, commercial recreation.

My colleagues from Wilderness Tourism Association, HeliCat Canada, Western Canada Mountain Bike Tourism Association, and BC Lodging & Campgrounds Association were also on hand to ensure that tourism’s voice was heard vis-a-vis the future of outdoor recreation within each of the key focus areas: Cultural Connections; Vibrant & Resilient Communities; Physical & Mental Health/Wellbeing; Climate & Environmental Stewardship; Educational Value; Economic Contributions & Prosperity; Quality of Life for People of BC.

To be sure, issues such as access, permitting, land management, tenure security and many others were raised by our group. In fact, we have recent data that shows the magnitude of the problems, particularly on tenure renewal and security.

The province is planning another face-to-face meeting with stakeholders in Kamloops later this summer, as well as two virtual sessions to further inform the impending outdoor recreation strategy. More tourism operators and sector associations have committed to attend. If this is of interest to you, watch for notices or invitations via TIABC’s communication channels or those of government and our adventure tourism partners to ensure you’re registered and heard.

After reviewing the stats shared by the ministry at the session, I quickly determined it would take me nearly 17 years to walk all of BC’s managed trails and to visit every provincial park, campground, and protected area that government is responsible for.

If I was serious about doing it, my next step would be to evaluate all of the factors and develop a formula that takes into consideration the number of years until retirement, expected life expectancy, variables such as inclement weather, travel challenges, aging, inflation and daily living expenses, and many other elements. Without any formula in place yet, my rough calculation puts me at 85 by the time I finish. I suppose a more modest goal may be in order.

Happy Canada Day.

Walt Judas,
CEO, TIABC

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