Question re: Tourism statistics - April 25, 2016

Mr. Silver: Over the weekend, the Tourism ministry gathered to take a look at the upcoming season. They also took a look over their shoulders at last year’s season as well. For the longest time, the Government of Yukon monthly tourism stats were unavailable. Nothing past July was on the government’s website until last week. The new stats do reveal some interesting information, Mr. Speaker. For the second year in a row, border crossings are down across the board — Americans, Canadians and Yukoners.

Mr. Speaker, can the minister confirm that the annual border crossings were down four percent in 2015?

Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, I want to first of all say that our visitation estimates for any given year are really derived from a number of key indicators ranging from border-crossing statistics to air-passenger arrivals, highway traffic counts and data from the private sector as well.

A number of those data sources used to inform the overall estimation of visitation encountered a number of reporting challenges in 2015, which contributed to the delay in reporting. I just wanted to put that out for the member opposite.

Mr. Speaker, the department was able to finalize that visitation report for 2015 and we were very pleased to post the information online as it is in keeping with previous years. We continue to work with the Tourism Industry Association to strengthen our tourism numbers, to strengthen overall tourism business revenue. Certainly, based on the information that we continue to receive from the industry, they are very pleased with the working relationship and the investments in support of Yukon’s tourism sector, which includes the single-largest tourism marketing initiative and investment in Yukon’s history — Yukon Now funding of just under $3 million in supported domestic visitation — and the list goes on.

Mr. Silver: It’s good to know why those numbers hadn’t been reported. The first day of this Sitting, I did ask why nothing past July had been made available to the public and it is true that finally, last Wednesday, there was some updated information.

It does show for the second year in a row that the border crossings in the Yukon are down. Land crossings are down. Air crossings are also down. This is the second straight year that border crossings have declined. In 2013, the number was 350,000; in 2014, it was 342,000; and in 2015, the number dropped again to just 327,000.

Can the minister explain, when it comes to border crossings, why this trend is happening?

Hon. Ms. Taylor: Well, Mr. Speaker, as I had mentioned just recently here, we recognize the importance of having relevant, up-to-date, accurate tourism visitation information. That is, in fact, why I met with the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon just last week to discuss a go-forward basis — in terms of review of our visitor tracking program and certainly the indicators that feed within that particular program that has become so valuable to industry and was directed for us to move on that program a number of years ago.

Mr. Speaker, I can say that, despite those reporting challenges that we experienced last year — that, I might add, were external to the Yukon government — Yukon’s tourism industry has indicated that 2015 was a good year for tourism overall and a number of those tourism indicators do support that perspective.

Mr. Speaker, that is, in fact, why this government continues to invest in product development, visitor services, and research and marketing initiatives such as Yukon Now, the largest single tourism investment in Yukon’s history. Yukon also continues to invest in highway improvements and airport upgrades, waterfront investments, as we’ve seen in Whitehorse and Carcross, in Yukon museums and cultural centers and in new campgrounds — all of which the member opposite continues to vote against.

Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, so just for the record, I am wondering if the Minister is saying that it’s a reporting challenge that indeed is why the numbers are down or is it that the numbers are just down. Despite what we heard, it looks like they are down for the second straight year in a row. The picture that the minister is trying to paint doesn’t seem to back up the government’s own numbers. The full year-end stat report is usually released by the annual TIA conference in the spring. I didn’t see anybody talking about it and I do not believe that it has been tabled yet.

When will the full year-end report be available so Yukoners can see all of these numbers for themselves?

Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, as I just articulated, the department has been working to finalize that visitation report for 2015 with the information that we had on hand. I articulated that there were a number of reporting challenges that were external to the Yukon Government that we experienced last year. In fact, since we have been able to confirm that information with the information that we have, we have posted that report online. All the indicators are up with the information that we currently have.

Mr. Speaker, as I articulated, we have just recently met with TIA as of last week to discuss the very importance of continuing to have accurate information, up-to-date, relevant indicators that continue to feed within the program that was developed with industry back in 2012. We are certainly committed to ensuring that we have the best information available for businesses to help maximize their revenues to help return the best return on investment for our businesses, and we are currently working with industry to strengthen that information made available.

We are very proud of our record-level investments in tourism industry — again a $3-million increase in our tourism marketing budget over three years. We’re very proud of those expenditures as we are with the partnership with industry.