The Board of Directors of the Innkeepers Guild have met and have discussed the issues that we feel should be addressed by those who are seeking legislative seats in the current election campaign.In the budget that was just introduced by the Government, but never debated in the House, there was nothing in relation to attracting visitors to our Province. There was a small amount of money offered to help offset additional operating costs for the CAT to operate out of two departure ports in the United States. In fact, although that item was budgeted, the overall Tourism Expenditures are actually projected at less than last year's expenses.In an interview today, Premier Rodney MacDonald stated that if re-elected, the Tory Government would be introducing the exact same budget.
The question then becomes, "what additional (creative) programs or spending is being done in 2006 to attract visitors to our Province?" In tough times, should we not be spending a bit more... not less...?
"If adverse geopolitical conditions persist for an extended period of time, this could further constrain consumer spending and business investment decisions. There is a perceived risk that renewed security issues could hamper the movement of individuals and goods at the international border between Canada and the US.
This could slow economic growth in 2006 for Canada. The requirement for passports or special individual IDs for entry into the US could further slow down trade, especially for tourism in 2007. Of larger concern are the twin deficits in the US and the impact they will have on exchange rates. Given the self-correcting nature of international financial markets, a further appreciation of the Canadian dollar is a strong likelihood."
Actual Expenditures for Nova Scotia Tourism, Culture and Heritage in 2004-05 were $51 million
Proposed Expenditures for Nova Scotia Tourism, Culture and Heritage in 2006-07 is $44 million
The Department talks of the fact that there is a valuable connection between the heritage, culture and tourism sectors within the Province, but yet there was obviously something missing within the proposed budget.
The question still is..., "what additional (creative) programs or spending is being done in 2006 to attract visitors to our Province?" In tough times, should we not be spending a bit more... not less...?
In addition to the problems that we see in the budget documents that had been introduced a week or so ago, the Board of Directors of the Innkeepers Guild have identified these 6 key issues that we would like to get comments on from our candidates.
What are the minimum standards in order to be permitted to operate an accommodation property in the Province of Nova Scotia...., perhaps more important, "what will they be"?
How does Canada Select fit into the Province's minimum standards plan, and how does Canada Select fit into being "mandatory" to either be licensed or to appear in the Province's official publications.
In 2001, the Innkeepers Guild had a written committment from Rodney MacDonald. In his letter to the Guild, he stated "As indicated, the Department does not have plans to make the program mandatory. We have a very successful inspection and licensing program, therefore, a mandatory program is not necessary." How has the Department's perspective changed since 2001, and why?
Who is responsible for Property Inspections?
Why is an outside agency (Canada Select) now doing the task that should be done by a public servant? Who made the decision that Canada Select should be doing inspections, and why did this not go through the tender process? Why have we continuously heard over the past few years, that the Department wishes to make this very controversial program mandatory.
Why is it that the Department unable to enforce the Overnight Accommodations Act? Why is the Department unable or unwilling to close down unlicensed properties? Why are our Government officials standing by and letting people rent out unlicensed properties without any recourse. In 2001, Rodney MacDonald promised that the Department would begin to take this problem more seriously and that they would be consulting with the industry (staring in the Fall of 2001) on recommended changes to the Act. We have been told that there has never been a single charge laid under the Act. Recently the Government has acknowledged that thet are 400-500 unlicensed properties in Nova Scotia. These properties are stealing revenues from all of the legal accommodations in the province, and that it is pegged at over $10 million.
The Government has always pushed hard to ensure that they receive property statistics by the 7th of each month. To ensure this compliance, the Department has threatened to cancel licenses. They have printed the names of properties that do not comply in various Provincial publications. We've been told that the Province requires this information so that they can react quickly to changes in marketing strategy. Innkeepers also need the availability of these stats to assess any changes that they may wish to make to their individual marketing Strategies.
Today is May 16th, and the last stats that the Province has published online are for January 2006 (check it by clicking here). We are going into a very important "make it or break it" season, and the latest stats that are available to tourism operators are for January 2006 (and those were not posted until March 15th). At this rate, the season will be over before we have any information regarding enquiries, etc. The Tourism Insights Website makes this statement; "This is Tourism Insights, Nova Scotia Department of Tourism, Culture & Heritage's tourism research website. This website is intended to keep you up to date about tourism trends; who's coming to Nova Scotia, why they're coming and what they're doing while they're here. You will also find overviews of regional tourism activity and information about such things as the importance of the tourism industry to Nova Scotia's economy"
UPDATE: On May 25th, the stats for February and March were added to the online site.
"Nova Scotia is sitting alongside the most affluent and densely populated megalopolis in the Western world; the Atlantic corridor; yet we are very difficult to get to".Numerous potential visitors have said they would love to come to Nova Scotia but they just can't get here, either because of airline or ferry schedules, and they aren't prepared to drive the long distances required if they can't co-ordinate their schedules with either an airline or a ferry.
We believe that the Province must adopt a bold transportation policy. "If we want the world to come to our door, we have to make it easier to get here and safer to drive once they do arrive here,"
Dalhousie University business professor Sunny Marche agreed that transportation infrastructure investment is critical to the province's tourism sector, as it is for general economic development. "Transportation infrastructure is vital," he said, noting that getting to Nova Scotia from many places in the United States isn't easy and often involves travelling through cities like Montreal or Toronto, which have competitive tourist attractions.
Your Board of Directors believe that this idea must be fully examined and implemented if we are to able to ride out the type of downturns that we have seen in our industry over the past few years. It is also essential if the current operators are to be able to retire from their businesses and pass them along to other family members or new operators. The availability of capital is essential in order for succession to take place. The Provincial Government currently participates in Farm and Fisheries Loan Boards to the tune of $20-30 million apiece.
Below are the various Funds, Loan Boards, etc. that the Provincial Government currently participates in (as is evidenced in the latest budget document below). If Tourism has the importance that it supposedly has in our Provincial economy, then it is time that the Government took serious steps in helping us sustain our industry by ensuring that capital is available for the expansion and succession of our industry members.