Question re: Tourism statistics - April 16, 2014

Mr. Silver:   I have a question for the Minister of Tourism and Culture. Earlier this year, the minister told CBC Radio that higher tourism numbers were due to marketing the government has done with Germany and Japan. Information I have seen from the minister’s own department shows that visitation from Germany is actually down from where it was in 2010, and down substantially from where it was 15 years ago.

I wrote the minister, asking him to provide any statistics to back up his claim that the number of German tourists is on the rise. He did respond to my letter, but refused to answer the question. I asked again during the Tourism debate and the minister refused to answer this direct question there as well.

What proof can the minister provide the public that increased marketing to Germany has in fact resulted in more German visitors to the Yukon?

Hon. Mr. Nixon:         I really do have to commend the Department of Tourism and Culture for working with the private sector and TIAY. They’ve done tremendous work over the last number of years, and we’ve seen the fruits of their labour. In 2013, Yukon saw record-breaking numbers in visitation, with an overall eight-percent increase. Of that eight percent, there were increases especially within the domestic market here in Canada. We saw a 17-percent increase.

Last year, we were talking about tourism providing upwards of $200 million into the Yukon economy, both direct and indirect, and now statistics are coming in showing those numbers are now $250 million that tourism generates to Yukon’s economy. Of that, we know that over one-quarter of Yukon businesses generate revenue from tourism, either directly or indirectly.

The member opposite speaks about Germany. We do know that the German market continues to be Yukon’s largest overseas market, representing about 26 percent of overseas visitations. I need to commend the Department of Tourism and Culture and stakeholders within the territory for doing such a great job at marketing the Yukon brand.

Mr. Silver:   The minister would not answer my question when I wrote him, and it appears that he won’t answer it now, either. The minister has claimed that we are seeing more German visitors because of increased marketing efforts in Germany. I am looking for some facts to back up that statement. According to the minister’s own stats, the number of German visitors is down from 2010, and nowhere near the levels that we have seen in the late 1990s.

If things are so rosy, why mislead the public in telling them that it is up? Here is a question: How many German visitors were there in 2013? Is that number higher or is it lower than in 2010 or in 2000?

Hon. Mr. Nixon:         I can direct the member opposite to take a look at the Yukon Tourism Indicatorsthat was published in December 2013. That document talks about border-crossing statistics. It gives a breakdown on U.S.-Canada. It gives a breakdown on overseas visitation from the borders. That is the simple answer to the member opposite. That document is available and those numbers are clearly indicated in there.

What I need to get back to is the success story that Yukon has built on a global scale, but especially here in Canada where we see increases in tourism that no other jurisdiction in Canada has seen over the last number of years.

We know — and I’ve mentioned this on the floor before — that we saw an eight-percent increase just last year alone and we hope to continue with that momentum. That may be an anomaly. I could only hope that we would see increases like that this year, but it is doubtful.

The member opposite can see in his own riding the work that the tourism industry is doing — both government and non-government — with tours of Dredge No. 4 within Dawson. We see it with tours of the SS Klondike, the northern lights viewing, and people coming here to rent canoes and kayaks to take treks down the river.

Mr. Silver:   Going from information provided by the minister’s own department, it’s pretty obvious that our numbers from Germany are not up in recent years, despite what the minister says. It is quite telling that the minister couldn’t answer my letter and he couldn’t answer my questions here today. The government would like Yukoners to believe that increased marketing efforts in Germany have resulted in more German visitors. That may happen someday, but it hasn’t happened yet and the minister’s own stats have confirmed that.

Mr. Speaker, why is the minister speaking of tourism numbers from Germany being up when in fact they are not?

Hon. Mr. Nixon:         Mr. Speaker, we continue to market in the overseas market. We know that we’ve had the assistance of CanNor over the last number of years with approximately $2 million. That campaign through the federal government has been extended for an additional two years, so we will look for opportunities working with our federal counterparts to continue marketing, not just overseas, but around the globe.

This government has proven that it stands behind the tourism industry when the $590,000 from CanNor expired last year. We stepped up to the plate — all of my colleagues on this side of floor — to implement an additional $590,000 into the Tourism budget to compensate for that loss from CanNor. But we already know from the Leader of the Liberal Party — because he’s indicated on the floor of this Legislature — that he’s going to vote against that.

I don’t understand the member opposite’s question. He just needs to look at the investments that this government’s made and the lack of understanding of the tourism economy that he has.