With the world’s top tourism destinations all closing their doors this year, some Canadians have started to ask whether the industry has peaked.
And while many say the industry is still booming, there’s a big question mark hanging over the Canadian tourist industry.
“You see, there are so many variables to this, so many unknowns, but the question that I have is, what is the future of tourism?” said Mark Hurd, the owner of the world-renowned Hurd’s Barbecue in Toronto.
“I don’t think there is any clear answer.”
Story continues below advertisementThere’s no easy answer to the question.
While the tourism industry is expected to grow from $5-billion to $10-billion by 2021, the Canadian Tourism Industry Association (CTIA) says the industry’s future is uncertain at best.
“I think it’s safe to say that the Canadian tourism industry will continue to struggle,” said CTA president and CEO Greg Mathers.
“But it’s a question of when.”
Tourism accounts for about one-quarter of Canada’s GDP.
While there are many reasons for this, the biggest one is that people in Canada want to see things.
It’s a key driver of tourism spending in the country.
But that also means many other industries are also seeing strong growth.
“The big question is what is going to be the future for the industry?
And I think that’s something that we’ll have to wait and see,” Mr. Hurd said.
Canada’s economy is growing at a healthy clip, but not enough to offset the losses of the tourism sector.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce says tourism is on track to grow another 4.6 per cent this year.
But many experts, including Mr. Mather, say the growth isn’t sufficient to offset a shrinking tourist market.
“We’re going to have to see a bit of a rebound in tourism over the next few years to really sustain the growth that we’re seeing,” said Chris Thorne, the president and chief executive officer of Tourism Canada.
“There’s a lot of room for growth, and the only way we’re going a step further is to have tourism as a critical part of the economic recovery,” he said.
Tourism is a major contributor to Canada-U.S. trade and bilateral investment ties, but many of the major industries involved in the tourism-driven economy have been on the decline for years.
Hurd’s barbecue, for instance, was a major tourist draw in the 1980s and 1990s.
Now it’s struggling to keep up with the competition, Mr. Thorne said.
“It’s not like there’s any particular market that is being replaced by tourism,” he explained.
“Certainly it’s not the case that the hotel, restaurants, theatres, hotels, restaurants are going to suddenly become the new tourism markets.
And that’s just not going to happen.”
But for many Canadians, there may be another reason why they want to come to Canada.
The government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to create a new Canada-wide tourism industry, which would be funded through a new tourism tax.
But it’s unclear what will replace the current tourism tax, or if it would be a major driver of growth.
In the meantime, many Canadian travellers are choosing not to visit.
“When you look at the fact that we’ve been a very strong and resilient economy, that’s why people want to travel,” Mr Hurd explained.
“They want to go to places that they haven’t been to before.
But now, they’re not as enthusiastic about it.
They’re more likely to go back home.”
For tourists in Canada, the question is simple: what will the future look like for the country’s international tourism industry in the coming years?
Story continues above advertisementFor tourism experts, the answer is not clear.
“Some people think the tourism economy is going down.
Some people think it is just going to continue to grow, but I think there’s also a lot that we still don’t know,” said Mr. Jost, the Hurds owner.”
Is the tourism market going to grow as much as it used to?
And if it is, is it going to sustain its growth?
And how will we manage that?”
We have so many unanswered questions.
“Read more:The biggest threat to tourism is not the climate, but lack of investmentIn Canada, tourism is largely based on the premise that it can make you feel like you’re part of a rich country, said Mr Jost.
Tourists can travel anywhere, anytime and for almost any purpose.
But the government of Canada has repeatedly promised that tourism will make it possible for people to feel like they are part of Canada.
But there are some major hurdles to the country seeing a more vibrant tourism industry.
For starters, the tourism tax is one of the few tax programs that’s not yet fully implemented.
The government has also promised to invest $1.5-trillion