A month before Christmas, Naomi Yamamoto, the Minister of State for Tourism and Small Business, spoke about the importance of supporting small businesses while in Chemainus.
During an evening social hosted by the local BC Liberals riding association last month at Mount Brenton Golf Course, Yamamoto, who is the MLA for North Vancouver-Lonsdale, emphasized how important small businesses are in smaller communities like Chemainus.
“My portfolio, which is tourism and small business, gives me the opportunity to make sure that our stakeholders understand that we’re a party that stands for free enterprise and, more importantly, to ensure that people get how important small businesses are to our community,” she said. “I’m a huge fan and huge supporter of shopping local … and I would never want to be part of a party that dictated where you had to shop, but I think if we educate people and tell them how important it is to support your local merchants, that we’ll end up with communities that are much stronger, that are healthier, more vibrant and are going to keep and create jobs in their local communities.”
Yamamoto’s message to people is to look at the small business owner and see more than someone who hires other people and provides services or products — those small business owners are also the people who coach our kids, raise money for charities and provide items for silent auctions.
“If we lose and we don’t support the small businesses, and especially in smaller communities, I think you’ll really see a deterioration of the fabric and the diversity that makes a community strong,” she said. “That’s why it’s important for communities to have municipalities that are small-business friendly.”
Tourism is also part of Yamamoto’s portfolio, and she says Chemainus is “obviously a town that gets the tourism component, with the murals,” noting the shift from a reliance on the natural resources sector to the tourism sector.
Tourism and small business connect in many ways, as Yamamoto says there are 19,000 businesses in B.C. that are tourism related — the majority of which are small businesses — and more than 130,000 people in B.C. work in tourism.
Yamamoto says B.C. is having a “great year” in 2014 when it comes to attracting tourism, and 2013 was a great year.
“From all accounts from folks all across British Columbia, almost everywhere we’ve seen another increase year over year in international visitors and room rates [in 2013],” she said.
According to Yamamoto, key tourism markets for B.C. are China, the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Australia and Mexico. Within Canada, Alberta and Ontario are this province’s target markets.