As a result of tourism to Canada tumbling last year, the federal government has scaled back its support for the Canadian Tourism Commission. The commission is cutting back its marketing program in the US, replacing full-time staff in three international offices with part-time agents, and eliminating positions at its head office in Vancouver.
“We’re fighting a pretty fierce competitive battle out there in the international marketplace, and we are positioning ourselves to fight that battle more effectively,” Michele McKenzie, the commission’s chief executive officer, said Friday in an interview.
The agency was expected to shrink after $40 million in federal stimulus funds and $26 million in special funding for the Olympics were used up. But in addition, the federal government is cutting the agency’s budget next year to $70.7 million, from $75.8 million this year.
The changes comes on the heels of a research report called Global Tourism Watch that painted a dismal picture of tourism to Canada in 2009. Out of the commission’s 10 key international markets, only China delivered an increase in visitors to Canada in 2009. The changes are intended to free up $16 million within two years for more programs in key markets.
“We are looking at our new budget reality and saying how can we be most competitive,” she said. The agency decided to change its business model to concentrate more dollars in marketing programs and less in other costs, she added.
The primary business shift will be to focus investments on “high yield” overseas markets and cut back in the US and parts of Europe. Consumer advertising and trade development activities in the US to Canadian destinations will be discontinued. The commission’s efforts were duplicating what was done by provincial governments and the tourism industry in the US, she said.
Services for Europe and Australia will be consolidated in London. Offices in Vancouver will handle services in Asia, Mexico, and Brazil. Offices in Australia, France, and Germany will be replaced with general sales agents.
The commission is not exiting any markets, Ms. McKenzie said. However, the agency will not be tying up dollars in full services offices, she added.
Around one-quarter of the positions will be eliminated throughout the organization, she said. The lay-offs will mean a leaner operation at its headquarters in Vancouver and a change in its international footprint. The commission will be in a better position to compete for tourism business by reducing overhead costs, she stated in a statement posted on the commission website.
The federal agency, which was created in 1995, went through a major reorganization five years ago when its head office was moved to Vancouver from Ottawa. The commission is an agency within Industry Canada that works with the tourism industry and the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to market Canada and undertake industry research.