Bounding onto the stage as the last speaker of the 2022 TIAC Tourism Congress, tourism minister Randy Boissonnault’s infectious energy and passion for tourism brought delegates to their feet with an enthusiastic standing ovation at the end of his session.
In his rapid-fire presentation, recounted how much had changed since his 2021 presentation to TIAC, with the government easing travel restrictions, finally culminating in dropping vaccine mandates and eliminating all COVID-19 border and quarantine restrictions on Oct. 1, 2022. He also listed the supports that the government put into place to support tourism’s recovery.
A powerful advocate for tourism with cabinet colleagues, provincial partners and international counterparts, Boissonnault explained why supporting tourism economically and socially was a smart move. Describing it as a living ecosystem of small businesses, mom and pop shop, local experiences, with so many owned by women, the LGTBQ community and Indigenous Peoples, he reminded delegates that tourism is Canada’s number one service export and is key to employment and growth.
But he also pointed out issues that need to be addressed. Canada needs to think longer term, not years but decades: 10, 20 or 30 years into the future.
Looking at major events such as FIFA 2026, he cautioned the audience that to succeed in attracting international travel, especially major sport events and conventions, Canada must be sure to have – or build – the hotel room capacity to handle the demand.
Boissonnault believes that authentic Indigenous tourism experiences can set Canada apart from its international competitors. But we must remove the vestiges of colonial approaches that have prevented small Indigenous tourism businesses from accessing government support programs.
Finally, discussing marketing, Boissonnault said that Canada would not be where it is without Destinations Canada and partners like the DMOs, but also emphasized that we should not ignore the power of Tik Tok and other social media to leverage free or low cost marketing, offering up a powerful peer-to-peer message from people who are living the experience.