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Tourism Victoria sets sights on outshining a record 2015

Tourism Victoria is intent on increasing tourism revenue this year by as much as four per cent over record-setting 2015, said chief executive Paul Nursey.
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Pedicabs haul tourists at the Inner Harbour.

Tourism Victoria is intent on increasing tourism revenue this year by as much as four per cent over record-setting 2015, said chief executive Paul Nursey.

After laying out the destination-marketing organization’s business plan for about 100 of its members, Nursey said Tourism Victoria has goals to increase overall revenue, attract new tour customers to the region and increase the city’s meetings and conference business.

Nursey said they will do it by being more focused on key markets and by leveraging relationships with other business groups and destination-marketing organizations.

“We partner on everything now,” Nursey said. “We are a small economy [in Victoria] and we only get better by leveraging our resources.”

Last year, Victoria welcomed more than 11 million people, which translated into 1.1 million hotel room nights, a three per cent increase over 2014. The annual average hotel occupancy rate of 70 per cent exceeded Tourism Victoria’s target of 69 per cent.

Nursey said they can do better this year and will again focus marketing efforts on solid areas such as Seattle, Vancouver and San Francisco, and pull back from Alberta, where consumer confidence has ebbed due to the dropping price of oil.

“The biggest risk in opportunity is consumer confidence,” Nursey said. “But we are lucky we live where we are. We still see strength out of the Pacific Northwest and Asia and some softness in Alberta.

“That’s why we’re cautiously optimistic. We are in record territory now and, if we can grow incrementally on that, that’s success.”

Tourism Victoria chief marketing officer Trina Mousseau said the organization is hoping its work on revitalizing its digital presence will have an effect on how its message is received by potential visitors.

“The battlefield is digital and it’s about bringing more relevant content,” she said.

Tourism Victoria is about to go through a staged approach to replace what it calls a tired website. Mousseau said the end goal is to have a site that’s rich in content, will pull people down the path to actually booking a trip online and offer a solid smartphone platform.

“We need to rethink everything we do,” she told members at the Victoria Conference Centre.

Tourism Victoria will get a boost with Destination Canada (the national marketing organization) increasing its presence in the U.S. market — the largest international market for Victoria.

“It makes a huge difference. Not only are we getting the marketing power which is long overdue, but we are getting a lot of research,” she said.

“Now I understand the target and how they are thinking and what they need to know to convert them to a trip to Victoria.”

Last year, there was an eight per cent increase in American visits to Canada, the largest annual increase since 1998.

Building on that may be easier with a depressed Canadian dollar, but Tourism Victoria cautions the limping loonie is no panacea.

David Rioux, the organization’s research manager, noted Canadians tend to pay more attention to the exchange rate than Americans.

Visitor surveys suggest only 11 per cent of U.S. visitors cite the exchange rate as a deciding factor in travelling to Victoria.

He also pointed out Canada is not the only region where the dollar has taken a hit compared to the U.S. greenback. The U.S. dollar has increased in value compared to the Euro and Australian dollar, meaning more competition for U.S. travellers.

“American visitors are seeking value from more experiential tourism offerings, quality accommodations and convenient transportation options,” Rioux said in his presentation. “Relying on commodity prices has not worked for Canada’s economy, it will not work for Canadian tourism.”