Holiday makers

Tourism and travel and holiday makers, are more than “fun and games” for Canada. We now are in the interlude between travel seasons. Summer travel ended several months ago, and winter vacations customarily do not start until next month. Still, now it is important that we address the prolonged slump that is besetting the industry.

According to an article in Kitchener’s The Record, “A summer of record oil prices, a strong Canadian dollar, and a slowing world economy, are creating a ‘perfect storm’ that’s putting a dent in Canada’s tourism market, industry officials say.”

It generally is not recognized that travel and tourism are among our biggest industries in terms of their contribution to GDP and employment, that last year amounted to $28.6-billion. That is as much as forestry, fishing, and agriculture combined. Yet, assessing the industry is not straight-forward, as the numbers include everything from airline travel, restaurants, and shops that are frequented by tourists. No one can say if restaurants are serving tourists or if stores are patronized by locals.

Visitors from Europe, Latin America, and Asia continue to come to Canada, but they have not counterbalanced the decline in tourists from the United States. The overall number of travellers has fallen so far this year by more than 10 per cent.

For the next year or two we are less likely to find travel continuing at historic rates. The typical Western nations are worried about the economy, rising fuel prices, and are discouraged by the strong Canadian dollar. What steps can the industry take to offset the negative factors? In view of the crucial importance of travel and tourism we must provide some ways to counteract the declining trends.

Perhaps our provincial governments should build simple lodges in rural and isolated areas. That would help the ailing construction industry at the same time. Other nations such as Spain have established a network of government-owned lodges that attract great numbers of visitors. The Canadian Tourist Commission should try to obtain coupons from museums and retail outlets that would lure visitors. We should offer discounts on buses and trains and the subway, which are commonplace in Europe. There should be bicycle depots where bikes could be leased for short periods, all at nominal rates, similar to a program in Amsterdam. Then too, of course, we should advertise historic sites and festivals following the examples of Quebec City or Toronto’s celebration of Caribana. They can attract even more visitors if they are publicized in many nations. Finally, efforts are necessary to facilitate the issuing of fishing and hunting licences, while maps and guide books should be more widely distributed.

Moves such as those will help to keep the vital Canadian travel and tourist industry flourishing as a very important element in our economy.


Bruce Whitestone