It’s a long one today so put the fire on and settle in.
In the late eighties, credit card company American Express introduced the tagline, ‘Membership Has its Privileges’ implying that only their cardholders received certain benefits and opportunities. I am reminded of the Amex slogan each time I consider a new points program or membership in an organization. It stands to reason, why become a member if there are no advantages?
The question of benefits is one that a few of TIABC’s members have been asking after receiving membership renewal notices in recent months. Before I offer some thoughts, allow me to deliver a little history lesson on TIABC as told to me by various sources, and to provide some context to the gist of my message. (Note – please forgive me for missing a few key names or details)
In the mid-1970s, the regional tourism associations came into their own with individual marketing plans and began to realize how interconnected they were as visitor travel routes and the shared provision of tourism experiences for residents and out-of-province visitors. There was a growing awareness of the importance of long-term planning, particularly around transportation infrastructure and zoning. The impact of provincial policy (good or bad) became more apparent, notably the moves by seemingly unrelated government departments whose actions had an unintentional effect on tourism.
The regional tourism set up of eight-zones was created by CP Air’s Hugh Main and Dick Colby, the BC government’s first Deputy Minister of Tourism. They’d sketched out the provincial map giving boundaries and designations as Region A = Vancouver Island, etc. Eventually each region hired a part-time coordinator to manage their affairs and report to a local board of directors. Other sector associations prominent in those days were the BC Motel, Resorts & Trailer Parks Association, the BC & Yukon Hotel Association, and the BC Restaurant Association.
As the story goes, three visionaries (Cariboo regional coordinator Duncan Myers; Three-Valley Gap proprietor Gordon Bell; and Dave Williams, owner of a Sicamous houseboat rental company) took a leadership role in bringing the regions together, eventually attracting the support of other provincial associations. Duncan was particularly conversant with the structure emerging in various tourism sub-sectors. He, Gordon, and Dave initiated a BC version of a pan-provincial tourism advocacy group and designated it the Tourism Industry Association of British Columbia (TIABC). Duncan was the first manager of TIABC, along with retaining his regional responsibilities.
Much was in flux in those days. For example, the Lower Mainland was at first known simply as Region B, then Mainland Southwest. Later the name changed to Southwestern BC Tourism Association, and eventually it emerged as a properly branded entity known as Vancouver, Coast & Mountains.
Some of those at the helm of TIABC included Rick Antonson, who was CEO of the Southwestern Tourism Association, Graham Bell, his successor, and Anna Pollock after that.
In the early eighties, there was a concentrated effort to broaden TIABC into a provincial organization beyond the regions resulting in another eight or 10 associations joining as members. TIABC’s membership strategy was to align everyone with one voice and specifically set membership dues at an extremely affordable $200 per association annually.
At the same time, the BC Motels, Resorts & Trailer Parks Association (headed by industry powerhouse Jean Dann) pushed hard to have the Hospitality Industry Advisory Council (HIAC) become the provincial tourism umbrella group. HIAC were averse to joining TIABC and the only holdout amongst all the associations. In fact, in one memorable meeting, Jean rallied her board members with the intent of voting down participation in TIABC citing the cost of membership as the barrier.
It was a ruse, and from the back of the room a young Peter Armstrong, then president of Gray Line, called her bluff and offered to provide the funds. The room went silent. It worked. The HIAC board voted then and there to join TIABC, as did some of the other key associations.
There were of course many others involved and subsequent further iterations of BC’s provincial tourism association along the way including a time when TIABC faltered and leaders such as Nancy Stibbard rallied the regional associations into the effective Council of Tourism Associations (COTA), resetting and renaming the remains of TIABC, keeping it alive, and eventually seeing it morph once again into a broader membership, attracting wider support, and being retagged as TIABC once again.
Fast forward to today and we’re still going strong with a membership upwards of 50 destination marketing/management organizations, 20+ sector associations, and well over 100 individual businesses. Considering the expansive membership rosters of the DMOs and sector associations, by extension we represent most of the 19,000+ tourism businesses in BC one way or another.
As the Voice of Tourism, we work as either the lead or in partnership with other sector associations, DMOs and stakeholders to develop policy to positively influence regulatory or legislative changes within government to solve industry issues. We’re a small but influential organization guided by a 13-member elected Board of Directors and several committees of industry experts representing multiple sectors and all regions of the province.
Aside from revenues earned by coordinating and hosting the annual BC Tourism & Hospitality Conference, TIABC relies on member dues to help fund our advocacy efforts and priorities. While we purposely refrain from offering rewards or group buying discounts, reduced credit card fees, or supplementary advantages that many other sector associations provide to their members, the primary benefit we continue to deliver as part of our core mandate is well-researched, strategic, and effective policy on behalf of the tourism industry for government consideration. FULL STOP! It’s what TIABC has done for decades.
My original intent for this message was to talk about the importance of our upcoming annual general meeting (Nov. 18) and encouraging you to attend, not only for the AGM portion but also the subsequent workshop on Building Back Equal – Addressing Industry Barriers & Biases. But I couldn’t resist reminding both members and non-members who read this newsletter, of both the history of TIABC and why membership in this organization is integral to allow us to continue to do the work that we do.
If you’ve gotten this far, allow me another minute to make my simple pitch. If you’re not yet a member and support our advocacy efforts, desire to get more involved, and recognize our vital role as the Voice of Tourism, please consider a membership in TIABC (as an adjunct to your existing sub-sector association membership). If affordability is in an issue, talk to us. We’ll work something out.
Like Amex, membership in TIABC has its privileges. Voting on directors for the organization is but one. Having a say on our priorities is another. Getting involved as a committee level is yet one more. But helping us advocate good policy on behalf of our industry supersedes everything else.
I hope to see you at our annual general meeting next month in New Westminster and to welcoming you as a member of TIABC in the near future.