06/28/2013 08:53 EDT | Updated 08/28/2013 05:12 EDT

Canadian tourism suffering without promotion

The number of foreign visitors to Canada is liable to continue to fall if the country doesn't start promoting itself better, says the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

In a new report the chamber points out tourism is one of Canada’s largest generators of GDP, contributing close to $80 billion to its economy annually. It also warns the industry is experiencing a serious and abrupt decline.

In 2002, 20 million foreign visitors came to Canada, making it the 7th most visited country in the world. By 2012 that had dropped to 15.9 million, and Canada's ranking had dropped to 18th.

Chamber president Perrin Beatty connects the drop in business to a lack of promotion. While other countries are investing more in marketing, the Canadian Tourism Commission's budget was cut by nearly $60 million this year.

"We need to go beyond the issue of cost, to simply promotion," said Beatty.

"You know, Prince Edward Island, the Anne of Green Gables House was the first in Canada for Japanese tourists. It's important to promote."

Some foreign tourists feel the same way. Khalid Sandrli is visiting Charlottetown from Germany. It's his first visit to Canada and he didn't know what to expect.

"I'm German, I didn't see any advertising from Canada or marketing of Canada. It's not enough," Sandrli

Sandrli's opinion is not a casual one. He works in Munich's tourism industry.

Don Cudmore, executive director of the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I. said the problem with the industry goes beyond lack of promotion.

"There are some other issues we need to be dealing with as well," said Cudmore.

"Access to Atlantic Canada, access to Canada, isn't that great. We're an expensive destination to fly into."

The chamber said domestic tourism remains strong, but foreign visitors are key because they tend to spend nearly $1,200 more per visit.

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