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Wendy Magnes

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Destination British Columbia has always been noted by #DTTT as a best in class for the tourism industry in many aspects of the work they do. Wendy Magnes is currently leading Destination BC's efforts in crafting an Emergency Coordination Plan for the tourism in BC. She will be joining us on stage at #DTTTGlobal - Disrupting the Future Destination, on the 1st & 2nd of December in Brussels. Wendy's presentation will take a look at the topic of emergency management within the tourism industry, where she'll be sharing the important work that Destination BC is doing in this area in partnership with BC's tourism industry.

We met her for an interview and she shared with us some of the knowledge that she has gained through years of experience in destination marketing and management. 

Could you tell us more about yourself and the work you do at Destination British Columbia?

I bring a wealth of tourism marketing and destination management experience, having worked for 26 years at community, regional, provincial and international levels including Walt Disney World and various British Columbia, Canada based tourism agencies.

Following 10 years as Manager, Regional Partnerships, I am now leading Destination BC’s efforts in the newly created role of Manager, Corporate Projects and Emergency Programs to help craft an Emergency Coordination Plan for the tourism industry in BC.

Working in partnership with BC’s Ministry, Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, Emergency Management BC, Tourism Industry Association of BC, Destination Canada, among other government and industry agencies, I am building from my Master’s degree in Tourism Management from Royal Roads University, where I first studied tourism related emergency management.

How many people are part of Destination BC's team and what is the main focus of your organisation?

Destination BC has 108 staff based in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia, along with international representation in 6 countries around the globe.

Destination BC has a mandate to market British Columbia domestically and internationally and we do so by working locally with regions, cities and communities, and sectors to promote the growth and development of key tourism product experiences. We are fortunate that British Columbia and Canada is recognized and marketed as being a safe destination to visit, and we take pride in offering Remarkable Experiences to our guests.

Can you give us some background as to why Destination British Columbia is now actively engaged in emergency management with the tourism industry?

Destination BC recognizes there is a strong advantage for a destination to know how to prepare and respond effectively and in a timely manner in order to manage visitor perceptions and to aid tourism operations to return to as much as possible “normal operations” following an emergency or disaster. Destination BC supports the notion that emergency management is a “shared responsibility” and so we are helping to engage BC’s tourism industry partners to contribute to BC’s emergency management efforts.

In 2014, Destination BC unveiled BC’s revitalized destination brand. The updated Super, Natural British Columbia brand showcases BC’s powerful nature and our vast and abundant wilderness located on the edge of cities and communities throughout our Province. That proximity to our powerful nature also at times presents situations where our visitors are susceptible to emergency or disaster situations, either natural or manmade.

Over the years, there have been a number of emergency events in British Columbia, ranging from natural disasters including floods, forest fires, to industrial accidents and transportation emergencies. Opportunities have been identified for greater coordination in communications pre, during and post emergencies between the tourism industry and other agencies responding to an event.

Why is this an important aspect of Destination BC’s work?

Tourism is one of British Columbia’s leading economic sectors and it benefits the province in many ways. Destination British Columbia works with the tourism industry to ensure that BC remains competitive in an ever-changing world of travel. Leaders within BC’s government and tourism industry recognize that along with local residents, the importance of ensuring that tourists—whether international or domestic -are safe and well cared for in the event of an emergency. Preparing for the needs of tourists and tourism-related businesses in an emergency or disaster and coordinating responses to lessen impacts has been a gap in destination management and emergency planning in BC. It is recognized that preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery strategies can significantly help destinations impacted by an emergency event particularly if coordinated response and recovery efforts begin in tandem.

How is Destination BC developing the emergency management strategy?

Destination BC is a partner in the development of a broad Emergency Coordination Plan for the tourism industry in BC. In partnership with BC’s Ministry, Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, Emergency Management BC, the Tourism Industry Association of BC, Destination Canada, and other agencies, work is underway to provide education, resources, and enhanced working relationships between tourism operators and community, regional, provincial and national organizations. An industry advisory group is helping to direct the work of Destination BC and its partners.

What learnings can you share so far with other destinations?

Disaster preparedness is not solely a public sector function—the tourism industry has responsibility to ensure continuity of business across the destination. Catastrophic emergencies and natural disasters have not only affected some major tourist destinations, but have also demonstrated the vulnerability of tourists once the structures on which they depend break down.
Tourists, be they domestic or international, are particularly vulnerable to emergencies or disasters. Their lack of familiarity with a destination, language barriers, or lack of awareness of local hazards or threats can result in the tourists finding themselves in more dangerous situations than many local residents.

Tourists caught up in an emergency need to be supported with special consideration, and local, regional and provincial emergency plans often do not consider tourists unique needs.

Like many destinations, British Columbia’s tourism development is frequently located in areas which are exposed to sudden onset disasters, particularly in beach and coastal areas and mountain areas. Considering that these areas not only host substantial numbers of tourists but also local communities, the potential damage from disasters is great.

In your opinion, what would you consider as major opportunities for destination marketing?

There is a growing awareness of disasters and emergency events in the tourism industry and with that there has been an increase in the number of publications dealing with emergency management in the field of tourism in the last decade. However, beyond case studies investigating tourism impacts during and immediately after an event, there are very few destinations taking an active role in strategically developing emergency plans that support a whole-of industry approach that encompass the emergency planning cycle from preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery.

Why should DMOs not miss your talk at #DTTT Global?

The relative frequency of disasters and the perceived possibility of future occurrences make it increasingly important for the tourism sector to establish standard practices to mitigate the impact of disasters on the tourism industry. For these reasons there has been a growing global interest in disaster management for tourism.

Destination BC is pleased to share the key learnings so far in working with in partnership with tourism, government and emergency management officials to develop an Emergency Coordination Plan for the tourism industry in British Columbia.

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