It took 18 months of dickering before Premier Christy Clark could undo one of her predecessor's more mystifying moves.
The restoration of Tourism B.C., a Crown agency axed without warning just six months before the 2010 Olympics, was a long time coming.
Renamed Destination B.C., it represents an effort to back up and undo a decision that was roundly criticized at the time and never really explained.
The explanation advanced by then-tourism minister Kevin Krueger was that they wanted to bring all resources under one roof and maximize marketing efforts. But it prompted a lot of incredulity in the industry when Tourism B.C. CEO Rod Harris was fired and the board of directors sent packing. And there wasn't much doubt that it was Campbell, not Krueger, who ordered the move.
Some correspondence later surfaced showing the government wasn't happy with the outfit's progress reports, although the board insisted it was meeting all targets.
Others speculated it was a straight power grab. The government wanted to seize control to make sure they had full authority over the messaging - and the budget - through the Games.
Whatever the case, about 146 people with special marketing expertise were folded into the ministry responsible. A third have since moved elsewhere.
Tourism has lagged worldwide for the last several years, so there's no particular indication that the restructuring accomplished anything. Clark's Jobs Plan last year focused some attention on tourism. But the targets have been adjusted downward.
Before the economic meltdown, B.C.'s official mission was to double tourism revenue to $19.6 billion by 2015. Clark's target is to increase it to $18 billion (a $4-billion increase) by 2016. Tourism has suffered global setbacks, she said, and the fact B.C. is "holding its own" is considered a win.
The new version of the old model was warmly endorsed by the industry this week. It will take a while to see exactly how it works. It was billed as "industry-led." But the background documents say "government will approve the organizations' goals, objectives and performance measures, service plans and service reports."
The government will also establish a mandate and approve compensation levels.
Jobs and Tourism Minister Pat Bell said those are just the kind of high-level expectations imposed on all Crown corporations.
On the funding issue, the plan is to fund DBC's first year of operation - starting April 1 - with the current allocation for tourism marketing.
After that, funding will be based on a percentage of annual sales-tax activity. The percentage will be set in legislation. Tourism B.C. was funded out of the hotel-room tax. The government also expects it to leverage as much money as possible out of the industry itself.
As a radio open-liner, Clark was in the chorus of people who criticized the original decision back in 2009.
When she ran for the B.C. Liberal leadership, restoring Tourism B.C. was in her platform. And she explicitly promised it again at an industry meeting soon after becoming premier.
As for why it took so long, Bell said much of the time negotiating the return to the old model was spent on the governance model. It's been structured slightly differently than previously. The tourism industry will have a fairly strong say in who gets appointed to the board. And instead of filling it with stakeholders from all the different sectors, Bell said they have agreed it will be filled on the basis of the professional skills needed to make it work.
Through all the changes, "Super, Natural B.C." has always remained as one of the key slogans, and Bell said he has no plans to change that.
One expert said the key thing to watch for as assorted other details are worked out is any sign of a fail-safe "heat shield" between DBC and the government, to ensure the same mistake can't be made again.
Just So You Know: With the promise on the record for 18 months and word in the air that the announcement was finally coming, the NDP opposition tried to pre-empt the government last week by promising a tourism Crown corporation. It would be "industry-led and formula-funded."
When the government released the news, the first paragraph said it would be "industry-led and formula-funded."
It's not often you see both sides in total agreement.
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