Canada's new tourism push lost in the election shadows ... Harry Potter tours!
Symbolism is important.
Which is why it's disheartening to see Canada's new tourism push lost in the proverbial shuffle.
For those of you glued to, oh, I don't know, the Ontario election or the Leafs' opening game or maybe the Martin Scorcese HBO documentary on the life of George Harrison, you may not have noticed that Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism, the nearly invisible Maxime Bernier, held a press conference in Gatineau on Thursday to announce a new federal tourism strategy.
He talked about how hugely important tourism is, which is great. A federal report on the matter says that in 2010 "tourism was responsible for $73.4 billion in revenues and represented approximately 2 percent of Canada's overall gross domestic product (GDP). That's as much as the combined GDP of the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors.
Approximately 594,500 jobs in Canada are directly generated by tourism in every province and region of the country. Moreover, the visitor economy drives key service industries, including accommodations, food and beverage, passenger transportation, recreation and entertainment, which account for over 9 percent of total employment in Canada. Many of these jobs are in the North, Aboriginal communities and rural areas."
That's all good. Great, even. But if tourism is so important, why was this event announced on a day when the largest province in the country was fixated on an election? Why not today? Why not next Monday?
The Tories aren't stupid. It's quite possible that they knew this long-awaited announcement was going to be fairly, uh, basic and thus deliberately held their presser on a day when they knew attention would be drawn elsewhere.
Timing aside, it's an interesting announcement, more a couple dabs of paint than a full coat of latex. There was no big money announcement and no Steve Jobs-like slogans to unveil. Instead, it was all about better coordination of existing programs; the sort of stuff that even policy wonks nod off to.
They might have been faking the enthusiasm a touch, I don't know, but tourism types reacted fairly positively to the news, as I reported yesterday. One top official said it wasn't a touchdown but was a "game-changing first down."
I'll take them at their word that this is a pretty positive step. But I found it interesting that earlier this week I was at the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Toronto and met with a fellow from the newly-formed Corportation for Tourism Promotion; the first-ever U.S. effort to boost tourism in the USA.
He noted that the U.S. campaign, which will begin in the next few months, could end up spending $200 million; more than double what Canada is said to spend every year on tourism promotion. It was a pretty low-key session, but at least the U.S. was bringing more money to the table.
HARRY POTTER TOURS
Harry Potter fans not only can now check out The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando, but will soon be able to tour the British studios where much of the films were made.
The "Making of Harry Potter" tour will be based at Leavesden Studios, where the eight films were shot between 2001 and 2010. Visitors will see sets, including classrooms, dormitories, the Great Hall of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the Ministry of Magic and 4 Privet Drive — home of Harry's Muggle relatives, the Dursleys.
The tour also will include costumes, props and some of the animatronic effects used in the movies.
Warner Bros. said Thursday that tickets will go on sale Oct. 13 — at 28 pounds ($43) for adults and 21 pounds ($32) for children.