Tourism Victoria Looks for New CEO

The B.C. legislature at dusk.

Tourism Victoria needs a new CEO that can market the region to a wide audience and bring players in the hospitality industry together in a unified front, Gialloreto says

Tourism Victoria CEO Rob Gialloreto announced last week that he will be leaving his post at Tourism Victoria and heading to Consumer Protection BC. Giallereto took the helm of the not-for-profit destination marketing organization in April 2008, and by many counts is leaving the organization in better shape than he found it. The organization provides marketing support to an industry that generates $1 billion in revenue for Greater Victoria annually.

In recent years, the global economic crisis, higher ferry fares and lower U.S. visitor traffic has hit Victoria’s tourism industry hard. Overnight visitors fell from 3.63 million in 2007 to a low of 3.08 million in 2010. U.S. and international numbers remain lower than pre-recession levels.

According to Gialloreto, the decision of the provincial government in 2009 to dissolve Tourism BC, the crown corporation that provided funding to local tourism organizations across the province, has been part of the problem. “I think it had a fairly dramatic impact,” says Gialloreto, whose organization saw cuts of $500,000 in annual funding.

Destination BC, which in April officially became the province’s new destination marketing body, promises to return to a more comprehensive industry strategy as visitor numbers crawl upwards, but Gialloreto says things won’t happen quickly—or without cost. “Whether you’re transitioning an organization to go back to government or now bringing it back into a crown corporation, those changes don’t happen over night, so the time it takes to make those transitions and transition back do cost the industry.”

During Gialloret’s stint as CEO, funding cuts saw Tourism Victoria’s full-time staff reduced from 35 to 20, but he’s confident that he helped foster talent and a good organizational culture, citing  stronger ties with the hotel industry and the establishment of a destination marketing fee as two achievements of his tenure. He believes, however, that the partnerships between hotels, attractions, restaurants and the umbrella organization need to go deeper.

While Victoria has diversified its offerings to visitors in the past five years adding outdoor pursuits and a burgeoning food and cocktail scene to the more traditional high tea at the Fairmont Empress and tours of the legislature, Gialloreto believes that Victoria’s brand still has room for improvement—and that the industry needs to understand what is truly saleable about the area. “Greater Victoria is made up of different municipalities and regions, but I think we all need to understand that Victoria is the brand, it’s the brand that matters most to Albertans, to people in the rest of Canada, to our overseas markets,” he says.