B.C.’s tourism strategy gets a makeover

Marsha Walden | BCBusiness
Destination BC’s current CEO, Marsha Walden, is a veteran civil servant, having spent a decade at the helm of the B.C. Lottery Corporation before taking up her new role in 2013.

Destination BC’s long-awaited strategy pitches the province to tourists as “wild at heart”

B.C.’s brand is getting a makeover: wood cut fonts, ads with more animals, less blue sky, fewer smiling families and a lot more awe.

Five years after the B.C. government dissolved the Crown corporation responsible for marketing B.C., its successor organization unveiled its market strategy Monday morning.

“We can’t outspend the competition, but we can outsmart them,” opened Marsha Walden, CEO of Destination BC, in a presentation of new videos, photography, ads and spending plans that are all part of the strategy.

Walden, Destination BC’s first permanent CEO since the provincial government launched its replacement tourism Crown corporation, outlined the organization’s spending priorities: more social media, a heftier online presence, and less dabbling in bookings and guidebook publishing.

The $2.6-million strategy marks a milestone for the government’s tumultuous relationship with the tourism sector: critics lambasted the Liberals in 2009 when Gordon Campbell dissolved Tourism BC, which left the province without a multi-year marketing strategy or an organization to implement it.

After years of rotating ministers, limited year-by-year funding and a thicket of bureaucracy, the government launched Destination BC in 2013.

Despite a new corporate strategy for a new organization, the marketing plan hews close to B.C.’s pre-existing brand as an outdoor destination, where tourists come to “connect with nature.”

In one video introducing the strategy, a low female voice announces, “this is where Mother Nature chose to erect her monuments” to images of waterfalls, mountain-scapes and dark rainforests.

That imagery is intended to reach consumers on an emotional level, said Kathleen Lorentsen, director of marketing communications at Destination BC.
“We found that consumers see B.C. as beautiful, clean, friendly and safe, but there’s no sense of urgency to visit,” said Lorentsen. “They feel there are more exciting places to go.”

The organization will focus resources on what it sees as its key markets—Alberta, Washington, China and California—and unload more responsibilities on the federally-funded Canadian Tourism Commission in global markets, such as India and Mexico.