World-wide, the tourism industry has experienced unprecedented challenges since the global pandemic emerged in 2020. In British Columbia, travel restrictions significantly affected towns in the Kootenay Rockies like Golden which rely heavily on visitors from Alberta and travel between provinces. For Tourism Golden, new approaches are required to help their community recover and drive tourism growth.
Golden’s competitive advantage goes beyond its appeal as a small, authentic mountain town with a welcoming vibe. Located in the heart of the Rockies, visitors enjoy numerous outdoor activities for all levels of ability and interests. A 2019 Value of Tourism study conducted by Tourism Golden showed the economic contribution of tourism to the Golden area was industry leading; revenue grew 180% between 2009 and 2019, contributing $124 million directly into the local economy and created more than 1,800 jobs. As the pandemic took hold, however, revenue declined 40% in 2020 and 30% in 2021.
Accessing External Expertise
With a $12,500 grant from ETSI-BC, Tourism Golden was able to hire consultants to help develop its five-year strategic plan for 2022-2027. “With this expertise, we were able to conduct in-depth, qualitative research that we didn’t have the resources to do in-house,” said Tourism Golden Executive Director, Joanne Sweeting.
The cornerstone of the research was a major stakeholder survey in 2021 that included one-on-one interviews, workshops, and discussions with tourism industry stakeholders, indigenous Nations, regional and municipal governments as well as board and staff of Tourism Golden.
The plan was also an essential component of Tourism Golden’s application to renew the Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT) to 2027 and increase the tax rate from 2% to 3%. The MRDT is a tax of up to 3% on the accommodation rentals applied in designated of the province on behalf municipalities, regional districts, and eligible not-for-profit associations. The MRDT is Tourism Golden’s primary source of annual revenue.
New Approaches for Changing Times
Industry research suggests that for the next one to two years, most travel will be domestic and closer to home. “This provides a significant opportunity for Tourism Golden to rebuild the loyalty of the Alberta market, and welcome travelers both from other areas of Canada and internationally back to ski, snowboard, mountain bike, golf, hike and pursue other adventure activities they’ve previously enjoyed here,” said Sweeting. “Our vision is to inspire visitors who share the community’s values to stay longer and experience Golden more in-depth, creating lasting memories and connections. “
Regular engagement with tourism stakeholders will provide information and resources that better support them. Residents will also be more directly engaged to promote their understanding of the value of tourism to their community and how they can play a supporting role.
Major upgrades made to the Tourism Golden website and a new interactive destination app will provide visitors with detailed information in the form they need. Tourism Golden will continue to conduct visitor research using multiple media to provide deeper insight into visitor motivations and behaviors as the basis for strategy development and ensure the objectives of the plan are met.
“The 2017-2022 strategic plan was the building block to get us where we are today,” says Sweeting. “With the support from ETSI-BC, we’ve been able to create a new enhanced direction that is right for the times, and vital to the success of our community.”