Canada not marketing itself in India: Tourist body

June 3rd, 2008 - 10:43 am ICT by IANS  

By Gurmukh Singh
Toronto, June 3 (IANS) As the rising fuel prices, high Canadian dollar and the US downturn further dampen the Canadian tourist industry, the nation’s top tourism body has called for thrust on China, India and Brazil to revive this sector. The Canadian tourist industry has been witnessing a slump since 9/11 and the deadly SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic of 2004.

In its Report on Canada’s Tourism Competitiveness released Monday, the Tourism Industry Association of Canada said the $60 billion industry is “on the precipice of an unprecedented decline, which could have a massive impact on the 1.6 million Canadians whose jobs depend on this sector.”

The industry, which pumps more than $ 20 billion annually into government coffers, has witnessed a huge decline - from 44 million to 27 million tourists - in the past six years.

“Canada’s tourism sector is on the brink of a crisis today, and we need urgent action from governments at all levels to address some longstanding structural burdens on our industry,” Randy Williams, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC), said.

He said though sudden and unexpected external challenges - the terror attacks on the US in Sept 2001, the SARS epidemic in Toronto in 2004, and the rising Canadian dollar and fuel prices - could not be averted, the Canadian government too was to blame for not addressing the structural problems facing the industry.

Williams said successive governments have traditionally neglected the industry, and regarded tourism merely as a source of taxation dollars, burdening it with structural costs and compliance measures which impede its competitiveness.

He said airport rents, airport security fees and excise tax on aviation fuel made air travel costlier in Canada, compared to many other countries, including the US.

“In recent years a low Canadian dollar and cheap fuel prices concealed or mitigated the many challenges facing our competitiveness as a world class destination. Tourism is an export industry that contributes $20 billion annually to government tax revenues, and is now fully exposed, requiring an immediate and appropriate response,” he said.

Since the Americans account for the bulk of tourists, he said the visitors from the US faced problems coming to Canada because of border logjam and other procedural issues.

Further, Canada failed to tap China - the fastest out-bound market - for the lack of approved destination status with Beijing, he said.

Canada was also not targeting the new emerging markets of India and Brazil. “We are not even marketing in those countries and there is a lot of outbound growth there,” he said.

Monday also kicked off Tourism Week in Canada.

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