A fireside chat with Canada’s Minister of Tourism at the 2023 TIAC Congress

Soraya Martinez Ferrada has been Canada’s minister of Tourism for only four months, but she already gets it.

“People are looking for authentic, real stories” she told Tourism Congress delegates during a one-on-one session with TIAC president, Beth Potter. “Canada has that, and even more important, can give them a safe space. Canada is unique in the world right now.”

Martinez Ferrada was first elected to Parliament representing the Quebec riding of Hochelaga in 2019. In September 2023, she was named Minister of Tourism and Minister Responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec.

She previously served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion (Housing), as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, and as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

With a background in the cultural community, and serving 10 years as a Montreal city councillor, Martinez Ferrada was well prepared for her current role, reaching out to industry members for information even before she received her department’s briefing.

Beth asked Martinez Ferrada about the roll out of the Federal Government Tourism Growth Strategy and its whole-of-government approach. There are 24 government departments that impact tourism.

“The Ministers Tourism Council will bring different departments together,” she said, but they to ensure that the ministers understand how they can contribute to tourism’s growth.

She is looking at several tourism issues within the whole-of-government concept.  She would like to see the needle move on transportation and access. issue she is focused on is transportation and access. How can we help the sector grow everywhere?

She is also looking for ways of dealing with housing challenges in the context of tourism development, so people can live where the tourism jobs are, and increasing Canada’s competitiveness.

Martinez Ferrada wants to ensure that the strategy can make a meaningful difference and would like to see the Ministers announce tangible progress every time they meet.

But she also pointed out that even with the whole-of-government federal approach, provincial ministers were crucial allies as well, explaining that they are acutely aware of the importance of transportation to tourism development in small, remote or Northern regions.

She was pleased to report on the steps that the federal government made on increasing the housing supply in the fall economic statement, as well as the government’s financial support of tourism.

The Tourism Growth Program, as an example, provides $106 million to support tourism projects that align with the Federal Tourism Growth Strategy.  The federal government also provides funding to Destination Canada and programs like the Indigenous Tourism Fund.

Martinez Ferrada said that her colleagues congratulated her for being the “fun minister,” but she understands that while tourism is an amazing industry, it is also a serious business and called on industry to be her active and engaged partner.

“I am tourism’s voice in cabinet and government” she told Congress delegates, “But I need your help to make tourism’s business case to government.”

Story by Debra Ward