BC Government Still Cutting Arts: Hello?

Wednesday September 9th, 2009

Guest Post by Sandra Garossino

Memo to Gordon Campbell:  Try to find time to read your own government commissioned research.

The government has only reinstated SOME of the Lottery Corporation grants to arts organizations.  Many artists and arts groups still face deep cuts.

Tourism is a staple BC industry and the number of US tourists to Canada has dropped to a 37 year low.

There is a white hot world-wide competition for US travelers, the largest tourist market on the globe.  You know the ones–they live in that country 45 minutes away on the sunny side of White Rock.   We are losing them to countries thousands of miles and expensive airfares away.  Badly.   In 2004 we dropped out of the top 10 world tourism markets and have continued to slide.  We are now 13th and falling.

If this keeps up we will be losing market share to the moon.

Why is that?

Well, there’s the passport thing, but the real reason is that we make the most common marketing error of all–we assume we know what our market wants without asking them.  BC brands itself as a nature destination.

Nice idea, nature is sweet.

But our own research tells us nature–even skiing–attracts only a niche market according to a document by the World Tourism Watch .  This may come as a shock, but most Americans don’t ski, and if they do, they don’t spend their annual vacation traveling somewhere else to do it.

Wanna know the scary truth?  Americans pretty much come to Canada to visit family.

Guess what the mighty US market wants from travel.  Cool urban cultural experience.  (Maybe they AREN’T that different after all).

Global Tourism Watch says that the primary and universal draw for the American traveler is CULTURE.


This is why cities and regions around the globe use art and culture to brand their identities and attract travelers.  Music festivals (jazz, country, classical) and film festivals.  Frank Gehry.  This is why Chicago spent half a billion dollars to build their waterfront Millennium Park, showcasing monumental spectacular works by Jaume Plensa and Jitish Kallat–two artists who will exhibit at Vancouver’s own Biennale.

When New York hosted Christo’s The Gates exhibit in Central Park (hotly opposed by many park lovers, by the way), it generated over a quarter of a billion dollars in direct economic activity to the city.

The Toronto International Film Festival generates over $135 million annually in economic impact.

This is the competitive new tourism marketplace–this is our reality.  Faded posters of mounties and Lake Louise are, uh, well, not.

We can’t compete in this marketplace with a strategy of starving our cultural community.

We have one of the highest densities of creative workers in North America, and Vancouver is home to some of the most celebrated contemporary artists in the world–people like Jeff Wall, Stan Douglas and others.  Travelers drop millions of dollars annually to see their work.

In other places.

We hope our government will absorb the message of its own research and get the big picture.  Vancouver ranks first of all Canadian cities that Americans are inclined to visit.  Let’s take advantage of this opportunity and follow the lead of other strong North American cities like Toronto, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York and really invest in culture to seal the deal and get those travelers spending their money right here in our own great city and region.

Like what you see?