While the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been felt in all sectors, the travel, tourism and hospitality industry was hit harder than most, was one of the first to feel its effects and will be among the last to fully recover, said Travel Manitoba President and CEO Colin Ferguson at the organization's annual general meeting, held virtually this week.
Prior to the pandemic, the tourism industry was on track to achieve annual revenues of $2.2 billion by 2022. At that time, the industry supported close to 21,000 direct and indirect jobs, and tourism wages and direct spending contributed $649 million in tax revenues to the economy, money that went to support public priorities such as health care and education.
"Clearly, the province's economy will not fully recover until the travel sector recovers," said the Honourable Jon Reyes, Minister of Economic Development and Jobs, earlier today. "We appreciate that the tourism industry has more than just stepped up, they've gone above and beyond to ensure that their operations are aligned with the measures required to reopen the province safely."
In an effort to mitigate losses felt by the tourism industry, Travel Manitoba launched new initiatives to aggressively market travel within the province, said Ferguson. The award-winning Home Is Where the Heart Is campaign saw Manitobans travel safely within their own province, the Manitoba Wishbook garnered support for local retailers during the holiday season and the Great Manitoba Sweepstakes gave out prize packages to Canadians for future travel.
Ferguson noted that a post-campaign survey for Home Is Where the Heart Is conducted by Probe Research revealed 40% of Manitobans took a vacation in the province and 43% cent said they would do so again in 2021. The new Manitoba Tourism Strategy, launched in July and led by a collaboration of the Government of Manitoba, the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce and Travel Manitoba, has a target to grow visitor spending by 50% to reach $2.5 billion by 2030.
"The Manitoba Tourism Strategy has a bold vision for recovering and rebuilding the tourism industry," said Stuart Murray, Travel Manitoba's Board Chair and Co-Chair of the Manitoba Tourism Strategy Steering Committee. The strategy puts greater emphasis on destination management, which means Travel Manitoba will continue to provide uniquely Manitoban signature experiences, he added.
"Elevating what makes Manitoba different will ensure Manitoba stands out as a must-visit four-season destination," said Murray, noting that new world-class demand generators like Canada's Diversity Gardens, Quamajuq, the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada and renewed attractions like the Manitoba Museum will solidify Manitoba's reputation as a distinctive presence in the tourism marketplace.
Travel Manitoba is a Crown Corporation under provincial legislation that leads and stimulates sustainable tourism growth in Manitoba's $1.6 billion pre-pandemic tourism industry. In partnership with the tourism industry, the agency is responsible for tourism marketing, visitor information services, research and public information.