Tourism, Arts & Culture Team

To facilitate opportunities and incentives for the business community to invest in and support the arts and culture of Surrey to improve Surrey’s tourism industry.


The creative economy Is worth 2.8% of Canada’s GDP (2016) and employed 3.5% of the 18.5 million jobs in the country. In BC, that’s worth $7.2 billion (that’s with a B) or 2.9% of the provincial GDP. Has that caught your attention? It did the Surrey Board of Trade. The Tourism, Arts & Culture team was formed out of several dialogues and panels that SBOT hosted in the past 10 years or more, to specifically address the issues that arise and to promote Surrey as the destination for tourists and those who enjoy art, music, theatre, books, and much more.

Team Mandate

  1. Facilitate opportunities and incentives for the business community to invest in and support the arts.
  2. Creative industry growth – growing indigenous arts organizations and attracting business in the tourism, arts, and culture industries
  3. Increase awareness of existing tourism, arts, and culture assets
  4. Host the Annual Surrey Arts & Business Awards
  5. Advocate to local, provincial, and federal governments for tourism, arts & cultural issues

For more information or to join, contact Policy & Research Manager Jasroop Gosal.

Surrey’s Arts and Culture

Music Cities

The team has struck a task force to develop a strategic plan to turn Surrey into a Music City destination. Their work will be posted on the Music Cities Website. They will be using the Music-Cities-Toolkit as their guide.


As one of the fastest-growing metropolitan centres in the region, Surrey has a diverse community of musicians, music businesses, industry workers, and fans. A Surrey Music Strategy is being created to provide recommendations on how best to further develop a thriving music economy within all Surrey town centres.

It will serve Surrey’s growing population through consultation, research, discovery, and community engagement. This will ensure the plan provides relevant and actionable recommendations to create a sustainable and resilient local music economy for generations to come.

Read more information here: culture/music-surrey


Discover Surrey

Media Releases

View Media Articles

Resources & Presentations

These links and reports are for information as they may not reflect SBOT’s formal positions or policies.

Policy Positions

The issue: Creating a Level Playing Field for Canadian Broadcasters in a Digital Age

In the age of digital entertainment providers such as Netflix, Hulu, Spotify and YouTube, Canadian broadcast organizations and institutions are being left behind. This is in part due to the unfair taxation system that Canadian content providers are subject to while foreign content and service providers are unaffected. Canadian businesses and providers – and Canadian culture as a whole – are unable to fairly compete with American conglomerates.

Read the full policy

The issue: The Importance of Tourism to the Canadian Economy

What it’s about: Tourism is an integral part of any economy. Canadians are losing out on billions in tourist dollars because of the repealed GST/HST rebate program. The Retail Council of Canada (RCC) showed the visitor rebate could have brought in $993 million in Gross Domestic Product to Toronto and $5.96 billion to Canada over the span of 10 years.1 Due to the impacts to the tourism industry as a result of COVID-19, a tool that could be used to help revitalize this industry is through: streamlined visitor rebate program allowing visitors to be exempt from a sales tax on purchases above a certain threshold as long as they present their passport, Nexus, or Driver’s License at point of purchase; and, eliminate the GST for tourism related hotel stays and restaurant visits.

Read the full policy

The issue: Expanding the Regional Film Tax Credit

What it’s about: Film and television producers that either film or produce outside of the Designated Vancouver Area receive a Regional Tax Credit as a result of the BC Film and Television Tax Credit Regulation 1,2. This policy disincentivizes production within the Lower Mainland and reduces the amount of economic activity available to municipalities in this region. Although the film and television industry are major contributors to the provincial Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Canada’s Gross National Income (GNI), there is room for policy improvement to enable allow greater levels of production and to compete with other large North America production zones such as Hollywood.

Read the full policy

The issue: A lack of arts and culture infrastructure plan in Surrey

A great city has great arts and culture infrastructure. From small underground studios to grand concert halls, arts facilities are gathering places that infuse our city with colour, stories, music, beauty, surprise, understanding and humanity. Arts and culture facilities create vibrancy in neighbourhoods, they help us tell our stories, live creative lives, inspire our youth, and they draw visitors to our city.

Arts & culture infrastructure is important at every step of an artist’s career and at every stage of artistic development from the spark of an idea, right through the creative process, to the presentation. With strong arts and culture infrastructure, our entire arts ecosystem is supported, and all citizens have access to community and cultural facilities where they can fall more deeply in love with our city. The building of infrastructure cannot be attached to other public entities, such as schools, but must be a stand-alone, independently operated facility.

We need to build momentum·       We have seen how municipal investment in arts and culture infrastructure unlocks and leverages much bigger dollars, resulting in the development of Anchor Spaces, Major Community Arts Centres, and Incubator Spaces;

·       Arts and culture infrastructure acts as a driver towards a shared vision for Surrey

·       Creative placemaking through the arts;

·       We are at a pivotal moment in our history to unleash the power of arts and culture in diversifying our economy and shaping our city’s identity.

We are building a city of great cultural spaces. But there is still work to do. The creation of new arts and culture infrastructure continues to lag behind population growth. For the next 10 years, it is also vitally important that we focus on sustaining our current arts and culture infrastructure, and ensuring that we are taking full advantage of cultural planning. We must also make the most of community momentum to encourage the development of neighbourhoods throughout the city that is infused with creativity and supported through accessible and vibrant spaces.

Four recommendations for arts and culture infrastructure in our city:

Recommendation I

Ensure arts and culture infrastructure reflects demographic changes and population growth


·       Indoor and outdoor infrastructure priorities meet the needs of our diverse community. The infrastructure must not be attached to public institutions such as schools but should be independent and operated by the arts society.

Recommendation II

Infuse neighbourhoods throughout the city with creativity through accessible and vibrant spaces

·       For Surrey to have suitable arts and culture space that meets their evolving needs in appropriate locations.

·       Creative placemaking includes artists and arts and culture organizations to create vibrant neighbourhoods.

Recommendation III
Protect and sustain our current arts and culture infrastructure


·       Owners/operators of arts and culture infrastructure have sustainable funds to cover operating and maintenance expenses.

·       The use of existing arts and culture infrastructure is financially accessible for Surrey residents and workers.

·       Arts and culture infrastructure achieves its fullest and best use.

Recommendation IV
Continue to invest in the creation of new tourism, arts and culture infrastructure, building on what we’ve learned over the past 10 years


·       Government, philanthropic organizations and the private sector continue to invest jointly in needed arts and culture infrastructure in Surrey

·       Organizations leading capital projects have adequate resources to determine project viability at an early stage of project planning.

·       Municipal funds earmarked for arts and culture infrastructure go toward projects that will fill an identified gap in Surrey’s arts and culture infrastructure, such as infrastructure that supports Indigenous culture, major outdoor events, incubator spaces including all-ages/youth space, live-work spaces and multi-tenant hubs.

·       It may also include infrastructure in underserved areas within the city.

·       Increase awareness in and the ability of bylaw and other municipal mechanisms to encourage the development of cultural space and tourism assets.

Arts and Culture Message to the City

The issue: Reintroduce GST/HST Rebates for Tourists

Tourism is an integral part of any economy. Canadians are losing out on billions in tourist dollars because of the repealed GST/HST rebate program; the Retail Council of Canada (RCC) show the visitor rebate could have brought in $993 million in Gross Domestic Product to Toronto and $5.96 billion to Canada over the span of 10 years (Wilson, 2019).


In 2018, Canadian tourism achieved over $100 billion in tourism revenues. Visitors allocated 39% on transport expenditures (22% on air transport alone), 14% on accommodation, 16% on food and beverage services and 5% each on recreation and entertainment, as well as travel services (Canada, 2019). In 2018, the delivery of services to support tourism activities in Canada employed an average of 739,100 jobs throughout the year. The largest sources of service demand were in the food and beverage industry (235,300 jobs, 32% share of jobs), followed by accommodation (149,400 jobs, 20% share) and transportation (85,500 jobs, 12% share) (Canada, 2019).

A GST/HST rebate is no longer available to non-residents for the Canadian accommodation portion of eligible tour packages under the Foreign Convention and Tour Incentive Program (FCTIP) if the tour packages or accommodations are supplied after March 22, 2017 (Canada “Foreign Convention and Tour Incentive Program – Rebate for Eligible Tour Packages and Accommodation Supplied as Part of Eligible Tour Packages”, 2019).

Non-Canadians are missing out on substantial savings, which would make Canada more attractive to visit. The 2019 Federal Budget proposes $58.2 million over two years for regional development agencies to develop new tourism experiences. This funding, which will fall under the banner of “the Canadian Experience Fund”, could be reduced by re-introducing the GST/HST Rebate Program because cheaper prices for tourists will attract more tourists meaning more consumer dollars are spent and therefore government subsidies can be reduced and used on other programs.


Since instating the new, on-site visitor sales tax exemption, Japan’s tourism exports have more than doubled in just four years (OECD, 2014). While almost all OECD countries have enjoyed an increase in tourism exports over the last decade, Canada ranks 32 out of 36 for growth, while Japan ranks third.

Value-added taxes (VAT) and goods and services taxes (GST) remain the principal form of taxing consumption in 33 of the 34 OECD member countries and account for two-thirds of consumption tax revenues, with the remaining third made up of specific consumption taxes such as excise duties. As part of a survey on tourism taxation, countries were asked to identify whether reduced rates for primarily tourism-related activities (hotels, restaurants, transport, admission to attractions, etc.) had been introduced when a general tax on consumption was in place (OECD, 2014). The results are visible in table 1, which shows that 26 countries have reduced rates in place for hotels and other forms of accommodation (“hotels”). In addition to reduced rates of VAT on hotels and restaurants, several countries indicated that the same reduced rates were also applicable for other selected tourism-related activities. The two primary sub-categories were passenger transport services (Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, and Poland), and entry to theatres, museums and other designated forms of attractions (Austria, the Czech Republic, France, and Greece).

Table 1 OECD Rates for Tourism-Related Activities


The Chamber Recommends the Federal Government:

1.    Introduce a streamlined visitor rebate program allowing visitors to be exempt from a sales tax on purchases above a certain amount as long as they present their passport, Nexus, or Driver’s License at point of purchase; and,

2.    Eliminate the GST for tourism-related hotel stays and restaurant visits

a.     To be eligible, hotels and restaurants must be registered, holding an up-to-date business license, and conform with Ministry of Tourism regulations, including the requirement that at least 10% of its guests are tourists.


Canada, “Foreign Convention and Tour Incentive Program – Rebate for Eligible Tour Packages and Accommodation Supplied as Part of Eligible Tour Packages.” Canada Revenue Agency, 2019.

Canada, “National Tourism Indicators 2018 Highlights.” Destinations Canada, 28 Mar. 2019.

OECD, “Taxation and tourism”, in OECD Tourism Trends and Policies 2014, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Wilson, Greg. “Greg Wilson: Ottawa Should Reintroduce a Modernized Visitor Sales Tax Rebate Program.” 23 Jan. 2019,

Reintroducing the GST/HST Rebate Program for Tourists

The issue: Art Education Investments

The cultural economy of British Columbia is in trouble. The trouble stems from a dwindling supply of artists, and lack-luster investment in arts education from K-12 and post-secondary. Without adequate investment in pre-K-12 and post-secondary art education, businesses are at risk of losing an essential skill: creativity.



The GDP of Culture equalled $48 billion, contributing 3% to Canada’s GDP in 2010.[1] Most creative sector jobs require a bachelor’s degree in an arts field but without adequate funding for arts education in K-12, the cultural economy will diminish. Currently, not all students receive the necessary courses to fulfill high school requirements to apply to degree programs.

Arts Education – why is it important to business and to the economy:

Let’s start with arts education. Exposure to high quality arts education isn’t just a feel-good issue for those of us that appreciate the arts and culture. It’s been demonstrated time and time again that incorporating arts education into student learning helps students become more creative thinkers and improves their performance in other subject areas. As a result, arts education is important for its own sake, but also to our ability to equip students with the skills necessary to succeed in an increasingly complex world.[2] Jobs in the creative and design industries are opening doors to economic growth.

Not only the creative industries, but all industries continue to increase the value they place on creativity in an increasingly competitive and ever-evolving business climate. A creative mind helps individuals develop problem-solving skills, fuels innovation and product development, encourages outside-the-box thinking, and allows for quick adaptation. According to a report conducted by the Conference Board and Americans for the Arts, creativity has risen among the top applied skills sought by today’s business leaders. In short, creativity has become a business necessity in the 21st century.

Culture GDP in British Columbia grew 3.6% in 2014, following similar increases in 2012 and 2013.[3] Culture GDP in most domains increased, with audio-visual and interactive media (+5.5%) and visual and applied arts (+7.8%) largely contributing to the overall gain.[4] Economy-wide provincial GDP grew 4.4% in 2014. Culture jobs declined 1.7% after edging up (+0.1%) in 2013.[5] The decline in arts and culture jobs are eroding the capability for the cultural economies to positively benefit the province.

Figure 1 shows that education investment has been decreasing in general. Although the BC government will be investing $2.7 billion over three years to maintain, replace, renovate or expand facilities and there will also be $550 million invested to hire new teachers and special education assistants, and improve classrooms, it does not equate to the value lost that occurred with substantial music program cuts.[6]


In the Lower Mainland, Kwantlen Polytechnic University has cut all in take for the music program for the 2019/2020 school year due to a $12 million shortfall.[7] Many high school graduates from south of the Fraser rely on Kwantlen’s music programs to flourish.

Given the importance of creativity in today’s economy, we must ask ourselves if we are doing all we can to promote the development of creative minds among the next generation of Canadian students—the employees and entrepreneurs of tomorrow. Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that we are not.

Additionally, development of creative minds benefits society as a whole, not just the economy. To this point, a 1997 study looking at social capital and community arts programs found that programs built social capital by boosting individuals’ ability and motivation to be civically engaged, as well as building organizational capacity for effective action.[8] The study observed that community arts programs often involve people who are disadvantaged in some way (at-risk youth, ethnic minorities, people in a poor neighborhood) and are designed in the context of some larger goal, such as neighborhood improvement (typically aesthetic) or learning and teaching about diverse cultures (multiculturalism). These goals are usually the basis for claims about the politically transformative potential of community arts projects.

There is a significant gap between what children are told is important for their future career success and what business leaders actually want from the emerging workforce. Creative individuals are actually in demand. Not just for arts careers, but for careers in business as well. For example, Disney and Apple are two of the most successful companies of our time, largely because of the creativity, innovation, and the leadership they have demonstrated in their respective industries. In an era when businesses are constantly struggling to find creative ways to stay at the top of their market, arts education can be a powerful tool to nurture the creative abilities of our young people, ensuring they are ready for the skills that are in demand.[9]

The CHAMBER recommends

That the Provincial Government:

Invest in funding for arts education for early childhood to K-12 and post-secondary curriculums.

[1] 2014, Statistics Canada, Culture Satellite Account
[3] 2016, Statistics Canada, Provincial and Territorial Culture Indicators, 2010 to 2014
[4] 2016, Statistics Canada, Provincial and Territorial Culture Indicators, 2010 to 2014
[5] 2016, Statistics Canada, Provincial and Territorial Culture Indicators, 2010 to 2014

The issue: City of Surrey Cultural Grants

What it’s about: Since the inception of the Surrey Cultural Grants in 2013 the City of Surrey has increased the amounts available each year.  While that is a positive trend research into Arts and Culture Grants in the region indicate that Surrey’s Grant structure should be measured on a per capita basis for clarity in comparison with


neighbouring jurisdictions.


Council faces great challenges in ensuring competing priorities are met however the Cultural Grant programs is one of the few that will return dividends to the City with increased economic activity created by the Arts and Cultural Community.  The standard ratio estimated for economic impact is a 3-1 return on investment as per the Hills Strategies Report “Artists and Cultural Workers in Canadian Municipalities”


  1. Research across Canada bears out this economic impact. “The Alberta Arts Foundation, the provincial body that gives grants to artists, estimates that the 500 arts organizations it funded with $35 million in grants in 2009 created $235 million in direct economic activity, including 1,344 full-time positions and more than 4,000 part-time jobs.” Alberta Venture 2010
  2. While Artists and Cultural Workers receive an annual salary lower that the average salary across Canada they are much more heavily concentrated in cities of 500,000 or more and will be an increasing economic force as Surrey grows.

Comparison with other jurisdictions:

  1. The inability to compare per capita spending on Arts and Cultural projects is the basis for this request.


  1. The City re-evaluate the current level of cultural grants in the context of per capita amounts across the Metro Vancouver region.
  2. Surrey review the limits to grants to Surrey Based Arts and Culture groups and establish a limit that will assist in developing established and long lasting impact on the Cultural development of Surrey.
  3. The City expands its expenditure disclosures in support of Arts and Culture within the Recreation budget report process to allow for greater clarity of the budget dollars flowing to Arts and Culture.
  4.  The City of Surrey separate Parks & Recreation and create a new Cultural Department.

The issue: Establishing a business role in fostering and developing arts and culture in Surrey

What it’s about: Through a series of events, the Surrey Board of Trade and the City of Surrey have made a commitment to foster, enhance, and expand the development of the rich human, cultural, and natural resources of the community resulting in a more competitive economy in what is one of Canada’s most livable communities. At the


heart of this vision is a simple question: What can arts and culture do for the economy, and what can business do for arts and culture?

What the Surrey Board of Trade did: Facilitated an information event in partnership with the City of Surrey to identify benefits for the business community.

The result: Successful event staged with issues fully explored.  Will require ongoing advocacy amongst membership and various government levels.

The issue: Surrey Cultural Plan.

What it’s about: The City of Surrey Cultural Plan Group asked for feedback from Surrey’s business community, more specifically from the Surrey Board of Trade. As business leaders, we have a vested interest and share in the responsibility to ensure the survival and expansion of Surrey’s art, heritage and cultural landscape. This is


especially true in today’s economic climate when non-profit arts organizations are dependent more than ever on the private sector for support. The Surrey Board of Trade’s response is critical to maintaining a well-rounded, diverse and economically healthy community.

From an economic standpoint, the arts are a major attraction for new and existing business and also to both residents and visitors as an important source of employment and tax revenue for Surrey. Patrons of the arts buy tickets to our museums, theatres and galleries, dine in our restaurants, sleep in our hotels, and shop in our malls. Cultural and artistic venues also add to the diversity of attractions that we can offer visitors and help make us an attractive destination. There is also a significant increase in spending from “cultural tourists,” compared to tourists who don’t attend an arts event.

A thriving arts and cultural scene also contributes to a better quality of life and is essential for attracting and retaining a skilled workforce. Businesses are dependent upon having employees who can think creatively, solve problems and communicate effectively. The arts are essential for this type of development and our communities must offer the cultural lifestyle that workforces demand and businesses require in order to relocate to Surrey.

The arts also have a significant impact on the positive social, emotional and cognitive development of children. As more school boards face pressure to cut budgets, the need to maintain area art and cultural venues becomes even more pressing as they may be the only places where our youth can participate in the arts.

What the Surrey Board of Trade did: Issued recommendations and a Surrey Board of Trade Cultural Action Plan.

The result: Support for the arts is a sound investment — one that provides significant returns in the form of stabilized and revitalized communities. Here are some ways that the Surrey Board of Trade can take a leadership approach in its communication to Surrey’s business community so that businesses can make a positive difference. We launched this at the Surrey Board of Trade and City of Surrey Business Arts & Culture Reception in 2011.

Ask businesses to:

  1. Provide monetary and in-kind donations. The Surrey Board of Trade, also a non-profit, can provide (and currently does provide) in-kind marketing support to certain arts events/programs.
  2. Provide the time and resources for employees to serve on non-profit boards and encourage the support of business voluntarism.
  3. Participate in corporate sponsorships of a cultural event.
  4. Help bring arts organizations together for collaborative and/or cross-promotional events or initiatives.
  5. Provide art classes for employees or hire an arts organization to educate children during school breaks, Bring Your Child to Work Day and others.
  6. Donate office space to an arts organization or provide lobby space for an arts exhibition.
  7. Use cultural venues for corporate events, meetings and parties.
  8. Purchase artwork and tickets to local performances and exhibitions and donate them to other non-profits — a paying it forward tactic.
  9. Tell clients and vendors about your affiliation’s as they might want to lend a hand, too.
  10. Advocate politicians at all government levels to support arts funding.

When arts funding is reduced, it undermines a sector that is a cornerstone of economic, and childhood development. It is more important than ever for businesses to rally together to support our local treasures.

The Surrey Board of Trade suggested the following:

  1. As 1/3 of Surrey’s population is under the age of 19, and that the theme of the city is to have a city that caters to families, the concept of creating safe Adventure Playgrounds can be researched.
  2. Creating Cultures of the Night, that is the place of arts and culture in defining the night-time life of cities.  Over the last two decades, urban policy-makers, novelists, scholars of culture and activists have come to think, in new and interesting ways, about the urban night. the night is now seen as central to the cultural life of cities.
  3. From an Economic Perspective, the Surrey Board of Trade wants to see Surrey alive with culture. Every corner of the city should be bursting with cultural and artistic activity – with neighbourhood dance troupes and community theater, jazz and blues musicians and symphony orchestras, sculptors, painters and writers – all contributing to the great excitement and ethnic diversity that makes Surrey so remarkable.
  4. Tourism- an effective, energetic marketing of Surrey cultural activities (that cater to a diverse audience) can further increase the tremendous contribution that culture makes to the city’s economy. Create an international reputation of Surrey as an arts centre in attracting conventions and tourists. In the end, the need for a convention centre in Surrey will be realized. The richness of our cultural activities is an important economic resource to develop. Restaurants, hotels, transportation industries, parking garages and retail businesses all profit from a dynamic and well-marketed “Surrey Culture”. Surrey’s Tourism Association has a role to play in this area. Some ideas are: assist and train cultural organizations to develop cooperative promotions to targeted tourism markets; create a task force to encourage and promote cultural tourism; create and market a “Surrey Card,” an all-purpose admission card that tourists/visitors could use at a variety of the city’s attractions.
  5. Establish Cultural Enterprise Zones in which commercial and nonprofit cultural organizations have clustered office spaces, rehearsal and performance spaces, retail boutiques and galleries, along with studio and living spaces for individual artists. There would be initial tax incentives and subsidies to attract cultural organizations and private investors. Such zones have been successfully established in Seattle.
  6. Public Art demonstrates a city’s commitment to bring beauty to its citizen’s everyday lives. This can be aligned to Surrey’s heritage.
  7. Arts & Education – Elementary and Secondary Schools: The arts should be an integral part of schooling and reestablished as a priority. We must advocate increased arts funding in education budgets. The city needs to provide resources in the education budget to fund student access to a wide variety of cultural resources — such as museums, performing and visual arts — and to fund development of educational arts materials designed for the students.