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Local tourism: hanging on til the Olympics

In British Columbia and Washington, 2009 is going to be a tough year for the tourist business. Here's what some experts are doing to get through the recession.

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"In many ways, Washington state and British Columbia are in a similar situations, as compared to the rest of the US and Canada," he says. "We are two sub-economies that are more diversified and less reliant on 'old economy' business, and generally more diversified in our GDP." He also credits the upcoming 2010 Olympics with providing BC with a unique economic engine — one that will result both in business and leisure travel to Vancouver and the region. "We are most fortunate to have this momentum; and it's one that will help see us through the hard times over the next year," he notes.

Darling also thinks the outlook for this summer is promising. Since opening the hotel, the Shangri-La has received good response from the Pacific Northwest, along with guests from as far south as California. "People who are accustomed to luxury travel will continue to do so," said Darling. "But they'll seek luxury experiences that offer greater value; and they'll do so in less conspicuous ways."

At the February BC Tourism Industry Conference in Vancouver, Michael Campbell was one of the keynote speakers. Touted as BC's best-known business analyst, he hosts Canada's top-rated financial radio show, MoneyTalks. Both enlightening and entertaining, he's also the brother of BC Premier Gordon Campbell. The charismatic speaker addressed the bigger picture of the economy, describing the severe downturn as "an event." Noting that 93 percent of Canadians are still working (with the number higher in BC), he emphasized that how people react and embrace change during this recession is the key. "People will come out of this situation stronger," Campbell predicted.

He put a more positive spin on the current situation than many economists. "In Canada, manufacturing is getting killed, but our banking system is sound," said Campbell. "We only have six major banks. BC is much better situated than other jurisdictions, and there is still tons of opportunity." Saying that an average recession lasts 14.4 months, he acknowledged that the world will look very different a year from now. And for those in the tourism biz, he advised them to hedge their risks. "Be aggressive. Be innovative. Be a different thinker."

This article originally appeared in the May 2009 issue of Northwest Business Monthly magazine. Reprinted with permission.

Sue Frause is a Whidbey Island freelance writer and photographer. You can reach her at sue@suefrause.com.


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