My Dad taught me some common-sense, valuable lessons about money that have always stuck with me. I’m sure you can relate to some or all of these. For example: never spend more than you make; set aside a portion of every paycheque to give to charity; save for a rainy day (e.g. retirement portfolio, down payment on a house, for emergencies); pay off your credit cards every month; don’t spend money on stuff you don’t need; and if you borrow money for a major purchase such as a home, make sure you can afford the payments.
Basic, fatherly advice that has served me well for decades largely because I’ve always worked within an annual budget that compartmentalizes my fixed and variable costs (e.g. utilities, taxes, insurance, food, gas), as well as any discretionary expenses (e.g. dining out, entertainment, recreational activities, hobbies, travel). Sticking to a plan keeps me in check and makes my personal finances relatively easy to manage.
Contrast that with tourism businesses where the annual budgeting process is far more challenging these days with ever rising costs for rent, utilities, wages, goods and services, taxes, premiums, insurance…the list goes on and on. The financial pressure on operators is enormous and many are still barely making ends meet, especially given debt incurred during the pandemic.
Then there are government budgets. With so many demands by multiple stakeholders, not to mention the variables created by global events, market conditions and unforeseen crises, I can only imagine how complicated the budgeting process must be. At the same time, it doesn’t mean we turn a blind eye to omissions or misplaced spending.
As advocacy organizations, TIABC and our sector association partners across the country need to hold governments accountable for budget decisions and continue to press decision-makers on allocating funding to much needed tourism industry priorities.
In our province, government spending is pegged at some $81 billion for the fiscal year with expenses up nearly $6 billion over 2022/23. The federal government’s new budget is more than five times British Columbia’s with a deficit 10 times higher than ours.
Because the province’s priorities were outlined in cabinet ministers’ respective mandate letters last November, BC’s budget (introduced last month) contained few surprises. For the tourism sector specifically, there was a nominal lift to the Ministry of Tourism’s (Arts, Culture & Sport) base budget that includes the Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) as a permanent line item. There were additional performance-based monies for Destination BC, as well as the third and final year of funding for destination development projects.
The feds offered support for a few priorities that our sector had been advocating for including more money for Destination Canada, funds to facilitate easier access to Canada from other countries, and additional dollars to support communities, small businesses and non-profit organizations to be distributed via regional development agencies (e.g. PacifiCan).
In the meantime, we continue to wait for the launch of the new Federal Tourism Growth Strategy which will determine government priorities and corresponding financial support for our sector in the coming years. As well, TIABC will continue to advocate for access to contingency funds as necessary to help our sector deal with myriad challenges and opportunities as we continue to rebuild the visitor economy. For example, we need dedicated funding for tourism emergency management services at the provincial level. Federally, our industry needs further support for debt relief.
Admittedly, I had been procrastinating on setting up my 2023 budget prior to a recent visit to the grocery store where I again experienced sticker shock on the price of food. If my father was alive he would have said, “Son, if your income stays the same but your expenses have increased, you’ll need to cut back on discretionary spending.” Wait! What? I can’t do that.:)
Perhaps I’ll try fasting every other day.