As Kathy Cooper officially takes the reins as CEO of Kootenay Rockies Tourism — a position she has been in unofficially since the retirement of Chris Dadson last fall — the tourism industry in this area still faces challenges.
Tourism took a hit with the economic collapse of 2008, and Cooper says that while there are positive areas, the industry as a whole has not yet fully recovered.
“We haven’t made any gains since 2008,” Cooper said. “It’s been a slow climb back up to those levels and we are not there yet.”
It is a changing world and one of Cooper’s goals is to make sure Kootenay Rockies Tourism stays abreast of current trends and provides the best opportunities for all its stakeholders to increase revenues.
“One of the challenges in the tourism industry is that it has become seriously competitive,” Cooper said. “We compete with other jurisdictions with bigger marketing budgets. It’s global now. The tourism world has shrunk. We don’t just compete with Alberta. We’re competing with Australia, Germany, Asia. Tourism dollars are shrinking and everyone wants a piece of the pie.”
The high Canadian dollar hasn’t helped in recent years as visitors to Canada may hold off waiting for a more advantageous exchange rate.
Additionally, Canadians themselves travel to other countries to take advantage of the same.
But Canadians remain the largest market in the Kootenay Rockies Tourism area.
“67 per cent of our revenue comes from Alberta,” Cooper said. “When the dollar is strong and they want to go elsewhere, we lose. But, we are lucky that many of our Albertan visitors have second homes or family and friends in this area and will come no matter what.”
Another challenges is that Kootenay Rockies Tourism and the five other destination marketing arms under Tourism British Columbia have not seen any increase in their marketing budgets.
“In order to get those increases we need to see an increase in tourism revenue.”
It’s not all challenges, Cooper says. There are some success stories in individual areas.
“We are seeing some growth in individual communities and some sectors. Golf has taken a hit and is still not back. There is some increase in festivals and heritage. We’re definitely seeing the U.S. visitors coming back, but we still have some challenges.
“As I take the position officially, my goal is to move forward with maintaining a clear vision and objectives. Despite challenges, we want to move forward providing our partners and stakeholders with the best opportunities we can to develop their businesses and increase tourism revenues.”
One of the issues going forward is bridging the gap between print and online marketing. A number of new programs such as kootenaybrochures.ca offer those researching vacations online an opportunity to see brochures about various attractions in the Kootenays. There are 45 brochures up currently and more coming.
“It’s just another way to stretch your reach,” Cooper said. “It gets your marketing in the hands of people looking online and research does show that people planning a vacation look first online. When they get a little closer they want that brochure in their hands. We have to present products in both of these worlds.”
The Kootenay app for smart phones was launched two years ago under Dadson’s tenure and has 8,000 downloads in that time.
“We just want to continue to bridge the gaps between marketing and innovation. We have a great team with many talents.”
You can learn much more about Kootenay Rockies Tourism and all the services it offers its partners at http://www.krtourism.ca/.