Question re: Tourism statistics - May 25, 2016

Mr. Silver: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Earlier this year, the government released its annual tourism visitor statistical report after spending $600,000 on a new visitor tracking program. The government released the report without these new numbers saying that they were simply unavailable; $600,000 and no new numbers is not a great return on this investment. Yukon tourism operators are forced once again to rely on border crossing numbers as they have for many years. The contractor from the 2012 study has asked repeatedly for access to the data that was collected at that cost of $600,000 and has repeatedly been denied that information from this government. They have even filed an access to information request to get that data so that it can be distributed to the industry.

Why is the government fighting the release of this information?

Hon. Ms. Taylor: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I just want to point out for the member opposite that, in fact, we know how very important it is to have an improved reporting system of the number of visitors to the territory and it’s in fact why we have launched a review of visitation to the territory.

That is fully supported by the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon. They support our government’s planned move forward with a review of its data collection process. This is very important and useful information for business decisions and maximizing the return on investment by businesses. We know that this is also very important to the Yukon Chamber of Commerce. In fact, moving forward with the review will help inform those reliable data decisions to help inform those decisions.

According to the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, we know that they will be encouraging all of their members, all the businesses throughout the territory, to contribute to the improved reporting on the metrics of this very important part of the visitation economy.

Mr. Silver: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I agree, this information is extremely important, but an access to information request was filed in March and this government has been fighting it every step of the way. The government shouldn’t block the release of this information — I agree. When you spend $600,000 to collect information and then then won’t release it, it demonstrates the fiscal mismanagement of this government. Part of the contract was to write numerous industry-based reports on issues such as transportation and accommodations, et cetera. The department cancelled those reports. A spokesperson from the department said that a decision was made not to extend the contract around March 2014.

Why has the contract been terminated and why were the promised reports never delivered to the industry?

Hon. Ms. Taylor: Madam Speaker, I am not entirely sure what the member opposite is referring to because it is my understanding that any and all reports that came out of the visitor exit survey, as well as the visitor tracking program that was developed as a priority of the Tourism Industry Association and that was identified back in 2011, has in fact been posted on the Tourism website for all to see. Certainly, this government is not hiding information. Certainly, I as the Minister of Tourism and Culture — surely the member opposite isn’t inferring that I should be intervening in ATIPP decisions. That is why we have an independent office to oversee those decisions that are separate from political interference. Surely the member opposite isn’t asking me to politically intervene in this particular question.

We very much value the importance of having invaluable information readily available to Yukon businesses to maximize those opportunities for business decisions and investments. We certainly look forward to the outcome of that review that is underway.

Mr. Silver: Thank you, Madam Speaker. With all due respect to the minister, we and the creator of this program are looking for this information — absolutely. The Yukon Party government spent $600,000 on a new way of tracking numbers for visitors who come here. The contract was cut short by the government, and the new method was not used when the tourism numbers were released in the spring. Those are the facts.

The government has been asked to release the data collected from the original survey and they refuse to do so. Shortly after this story broke, the government put out a press release that said that after 14 years of not doing so, it was prepared to talk to the industry about improving tourism data collection. This would be absolutely useful information for small businesses and is something the government has failed miserably at providing in the past. A spokesperson said, however, that there would be nothing in place until at least 2018.

Why has it proven so difficult for the government to count tourists?

Hon. Ms. Taylor: Again, thank you, Madam Speaker. For the member opposite, we recognize the importance of visitor statistics for Yukon businesses and our economy. We also recognize that the best people to tell us what works and what can be improved are the tourism operators.

In the coming months, we will be engaging with tourism operators and we will be engaging with Yukon businesses and organizations in support of the tourism industry to determine what is the best mechanism; to see what are the best indicators and to see how we can fill out a more robust tracking system.

We will continue to collect and publish all those tourism indicators online throughout this process, but again, we recognize the importance of having that relevant, accurate and up-to-date information to measure the health of industry and to help inform those business decisions — something, I should add, that is fully endorsed by the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon by way of a recent news release on May 9, 2016, as well as the Yukon Chamber of Commerce.

The only member taking issue with this review is the member opposite.