Future is bright for tourism industry

Marsha Walden, chief executive officer of Destination BC. - Rob Newell
Marsha Walden, chief executive officer of Destination BC.
— image credit: Rob Newell

It’s a super looking future for Super Natural British Columbia’s tourism industry, according to the head of the industry-led Crown corporation charged with marketing the province.

Marsha Walden, chief executive officer of Destination BC, was effusive in her praise for the workers in the hospitality industry, who play a key, front-line role in the province’s growing international popularity.

“It’s so great to see so many energetic, dedicated and diverse industries represented at this event,” Walden told the audience during the Tourism Richmond Service Awards at River Rock Casino Resort’s Show Theatre.

“(The tourism industry) has the power to transform individuals, and it has the power to transform the economy, right across British Columbia,” Walden said.

Walden shared that 30 years ago, she worked as a hotel desk clerk, which gave her insight into the tourism world.

“I loved talking to our guests because they were all so happy to be visiting this part of the world, enjoying their time so much, that I really felt as though I was contributing in some small way to the happiness of their overall lives.”

Walden spoke about her optimism for the future of the industry.

There’s solid growth signs, across key emerging nations around the globe.

The industry grew by 2.5 per cent and is now worth $13.5 billion annually. It was also identified as one of the top 8 industries that Victoria is focusing on for revenue and job growth.

Employment was also up for the first time since 2008, Walden said, with 127,000 people directly employed by BC’s tourism industry, up almost 15 per cent in the last decade.

Visits from China were up last year by 26 per cent, and thus far is up 32 per cent this year.

“Those are impressive numbers,” Walden said.

Air China, China Eastern, China Southern and Sichuan Airlines, have all increased their service into Vancouver.

She also see a new role for Destination BC that is much more focused on that future international growth.

There’s an entirely new marketing plan in the works, she said, and part of that plan will include a “wholesale look at the British Columbia brand and revitalizing that so it’s much more relevant, compelling and distinctive in what is now a very competitive global world.”

She’s also optimistic because she sees that by working together in new ways, BC can outsmart its global competition and become the most highly recommended destination across North America.

“There’s no question that governments all over the world have awoken to the importance of tourism in their economies,” she said.

A key part of the tourism experience is what hospitality industry staff bring to the table every day.

“For us to be successful, British Columbia tourism organizations need smart, innovative employees like you to really focus on what customers are looking for, which is a transformative experience. You represent the face of British Columbia, you’re the warmth of our people, you’re the world class hospitality that we need to offer in order to be considered a premium destination.”




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