Often when interviewing a Voice of Tourism podcast guest, moderating a panel or catching up with a colleague, I will ask the question, “what keeps you up at night” because nearly everyone can relate to losing sleep over someone or something. While occasionally the answers catch me off guard, most responses are predictable.
Regardless of whether I’m speaking with tourism business owners, not-for-profit leaders or sector association executives, these days virtually all are concerned about diminishing revenues and growing expenses…something I can also relate to. While rising costs are increasingly difficult to contain given the lack of direct influence over things like taxes, insurance, and rent, as well as other variables such as inflation, wages and supplies, most organizations have at least some measure of control over generating income.
At the TIAC Congress this week in Ottawa, I paid particular attention to the many creative ways organizations are raising revenues to sustain and/or grow their operations in a challenging operating environment. For example, Alliance de l’industrie touristique du Quebec (the equivalent of Destination BC) manages the province’s wayfinding program, producing highway signs that promote tourism businesses and destinations to help direct travellers to visitor products, experiences, and services. With revenues split between the PDMO and Quebec government, it’s a hugely successful initiative that also benefits operators. My provincial/territorial counterparts and I drooled with envy when our colleague described the program. In parts of BC we have enough trouble getting broken highway signs repaired or replaced, never mind adopting new signage policies or turning the wayfinding program over to a tourism sector association.
Another innovative and progressive revenue generating program I learned about was the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada’s new Indigenous Tourism Destination Fund (ITDF), which has been set up to tangibly support progress towards realizing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to action #92 – to build respectful relationships and ensure that Indigenous communities gain long-term economic benefits from activities that take place on their lands or use their resources.
The basis of the program is to enlist the help of Indigenous and non-Indigenous businesses to charge consumers an additional .25 cents per transaction and contribute the incremental revenues to the ITDF. With a fund goal of $2.6 million, monies raised will be invested in infrastructure, workforce, Indigenization of airports across Canada, marketing of Indigenous tourism, and expanding transportation access to remote communities, among other things. The initiative is designed to help ITAC progress toward its 2030 vision to increase the number of Canadian Indigenous businesses by 800, create 21,000 new jobs, and grow Indigenous tourism’s GDP contribution by $4.1 billion (to $6b).
Some companies like Rocky Mountaineer are already early adopters and have chosen to up the ante to $5.00 per customer booking. Every business that participates in ITDF will be recognized as an official Indigenous Tourism Reconciliation Partner.
As TIABC begins its strategic planning process in the coming weeks, budget will be a critical area of discussion. Our reliance on membership dues and profits from the annual BC Tourism Industry Conference may not be sustainable over the long-term, nor generate the income to do what we need to do on so many advocacy files. Suffice it to say, I’m guilty of losing sleep over it at times.
At one of the TIAC Congress plenary sessions, the moderator asked each panelist what keeps them up at night. Given the seriousness of the topic, none of us expected to hear, “my husband’s snoring.” Nonetheless, it drew a good laugh.
By the way, as I contemplate new revenue sources for TIABC, did I mention that conference registration is open and sponsor opportunities are available?