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Rosin: Alberta's Newest Secretary for Tourism

Introducing Alberta’s new Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism: me!

Last month I was humbled and honoured to be sworn in as Alberta's Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism as part of Premier Danielle Smith’s new leadership team. Parliamentary Secretaries work as key representatives of their respective portfolios. In this role, in addition to my duties as your MLA, I will work closely with Minister Todd Loewen of Forestry, Parks and Tourism to champion our government’s policy development and stakeholder engagement with regards to tourism.

Over the past three years I have had the absolute pleasure of working with and getting to know our province's many tourism and hospitality operators, entrepreneurs, and industry partners – both here in Banff-Kananaskis and far beyond. With expenditures peaking above $10 billion in 2019 from 34 million visitors, and a contribution of $8.4 billion in GDP and 82,000 full time jobs to Alberta's economy, our tourism industry is world class. Still, there is boundless opportunity across our beautiful province to strengthen, grow, and diversify.

In my first meeting with Premier Smith after her United Conservative leadership victory, knowing that most MLAs in my caucus would give voice to Alberta’s resource industries but that few were as well-equipped to give voice to the unique world of tourism as myself, discussing the growth and vitality of our tourism sector was my primary focus. Supported by no less than 250 pages of highlighted, tabbed, and organized research which I compiled and brought to our meeting, she and I discussed the immense potential for this industry, and what it needed to thrive. It was that conversation that inevitably led to my appointment.

With this appointment, but only six months until the Spring election, Minister Loewen and I have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time. Recognizing this, we immediately got together after being sworn in and concluded that the industry’s biggest opportunity was in recreational tourism; the industry’s biggest constraint was access to labour, and that the industry’s biggest limitation to reaching new markets was sustainable funding for Travel Alberta. Based on these conclusions, Minister Loewen and I promptly submitted a package to Premier Smith detailing how we believed best to address that which we had identified. Shortly thereafter we received our mandate letter from the Premier which accepted all of the ideas we had submitted in addition to providing us with an even more expansive mandate. We are going to have our hands full!

Given that 60% of our beautiful province’s landmass is Crown Land, there is tremendous opportunity grow our recreational economy. Unfortunately our Crown Land policy in its current form is restrictive, and has resulted in a $10 billion tourism trade deficit to British Columbia. To increase Alberta’s recreational competitiveness, Minister Loewen and I will begin the important work of developing clear, concise, policy that will empower Alberta entrepreneurs to create opportunities for Albertans and visitors alike to experience Alberta’s wild.

Tourism and hospitality’s heavy reliance on international and temporary foreign workers, amongst other factors, has resulted in a systemic labour shortage. Even in times of economic stagnation in Alberta, when other sectors struggled with high unemployment, these sectors maintained more jobs available than they were able to fill. Today the industry has more than a 20% labour shortage in some areas of the province, forcing hotels and businesses to shutter their doors for time when they would otherwise be open. While immigration is largely under federal jurisdiction, Minister Loewen and I will immediately begin the work of pursuing an expedited tourism and hospitality immigration stream through channels which the province can control in hopes of easing the strains caused by the labour shortages for the winter ski season.

Finally, to ensure that Travel Alberta can fulfill its complete mandate of not only promoting Alberta to key international markets but of undertaking tourism policy development, partnering with private industry to expand experiential offerings in the province, and establishing new international markets from which to attract visitors, Minister Loewen and I will assess the advantages of having the full 4% overnight hotel levy invested fully in Travel Alberta. When this levy was initially introduced in Alberta years ago, its intent was solely to support Travel Alberta and guarantee the agency sustainable funding that would not be beholden to the whims of subsequent governments and their budgeting priorities. Unfortunately with time, governments began diverting the levy into the government’s general revenue fund. Travel Alberta has tremendous potential to usher in growth, but they need reliable funding to do so.

In addition to these key priorities which Minister Loewen and I set together, we have also been given instruction by Premier Smith to shorten permit and license approvals for new tourism ventures; invest in the infrastructure of Kananaskis, Waiparous, and other high traffic areas; initiate negotiations with the federal government to ensure national park pass revenues generated from Alberta national parks stay within Alberta national parks, and develop a long-term growth strategy for the industry.

There are very few places on earth to whom a thriving tourism economy comes more naturally than our beautiful province of Alberta, and it is time that we recognize that beauty as the true natural resource that it is.

I am grateful to Premier Smith for understanding the important existence of tourism as part of Alberta's economic future. For a government to produce such an extensive list of mandates related to specifically to tourism, an industry that for far too long has gone overlooked, is unheard of in recent Albertan history. This signifies the dedication that myself and our United Conservative government have to the industry’s many entrepreneurs and visionaries, and to Alberta’s broader economic diversification. Together we will strengthen the sector, provide it with opportunities to flourish, and secure jurisdiction over that which is rightfully Alberta’s. Now, it’s time to get to work!

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