Budget moves in the right direction for tourism



    OTTAWA, March 20 /CNW Telbec/ - Yesterday's budget delivered some
positive items for the tourism industry, including the creation of the new
Foreign Convention and Tour Incentive Program, which indicates the government
is hearing tourism's message and is committed to moving forward in a positive
way, according to Canada's national tourism advocacy group.
    "The industry advocated strongly for preservation of the whole GST/HST
Visitor Rebate Program and there is disappointment that the VRP was not kept
intact," says Randy Williams, President and CEO of the Tourism Industry
Association of Canada (TIAC). "However, this budget demonstrates that Minister
Flaherty takes tourism's concerns seriously and is willing to work together
with our industry to improve the fiscal landscape for an industry that has
faced a series of challenges over the last several years."
    The Canadian tourism industry has been suffering from the effects of a
strong Canadian dollar, post 9/11 security measures, SARS, and confusion over
new U.S. passport requirements under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative,
which have all negatively affected the industry and Canada's ability to
compete in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.
    Since 2000, the number of U.S visitors to Canada has fallen 34%, with
same-day U.S. car trips to Canada currently at the lowest level since record
keeping began in 1972. In addition, Canada's travel deficit-the difference
between spending by Canadians abroad and spending by foreigners in Canada-has
hit a record high of $7.2 billion. Just five years ago, the travel deficit was
$1.5 billion.
    "These crises have hit the industry hard and this budget is a good sign
that the government is ready to help turn it around," says Williams.

    Budget 2007 highlights for tourism include:

    
    - Creation of the Foreign Convention and Tour Incentive Program, which
      allows for GST/HST rebates for non-resident attendees at foreign
      conventions in Canada as well as Canadian conventions beginning after
      March 31, 2007. In addition the program will allow a GST/HST rebate for
      the accommodation portion of a tour package;

    - $51 million over two years to improve the Foreign Workers Program,
      which may ease labour shortages for the tourism industry;

    - $39 million in funding for new local arts and heritage festivals;

    - $10 million investment in Parks protected areas in the Northwest
      Territories;

    - A new $2.1 billion fund for gateways and border crossings to improve
      the flow of goods and people between Canada and the rest of the world;
      and

    - $5 million for historical sites and heritage buildings.
    

    Noticeably absent from the budget were funding for the Canadian Tourism
Commission and rent relief for Canadian airports. "Canada is not investing
enough in advertising the Canada Brand and high airport rents translate into
higher fees for travelers," Williams added. "These are important issues for
the tourism industry that we hope to address as we continue our dialogue with
government."




For further information:

For further information: Chris Jones, Vice President, Public Affairs,
Tourism Industry Association of Canada, (613) 238-7557, Cell.: (613) 295-9530,
cjones@tiac.travel


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