The organizers of the Great Northern Salmon Classic took time out from their busy days of number crunching to declare that the six week fishing derby was a success in a number of areas.
Executive Director of Tourism Prince Rupert, Bruce Wishart, who also came up with the project to lure tourist traffic back to the Northwest in the wake of the Queen of the North tragedy, praised the Management Committee for bringing it all together in a very short period of time.
Wishart also expressed pride in the work of the staff and partner organizations and released some background facts on the derby and said that a final report will be released later in October, while the findings of a creel survey on the impact to the fishery will be released in November.
The derby had hoped to sell around 2,000 tickets to the event, settling for a total of 1,685. By the time the derby came to an end on September 15th, some 1,535 fish of various species had been weighed in at the Atlin Terminal. 20% of the prizes were awarded to residents of Prince Rupert, while 80% went to visitors from outside the area.
While the tournament organizers suggest that it’s hard to determine the exact impact of the derby on the local tourism scene, they now have a better idea of the state of the fishing visitor to the area, though those numbers surely would be skewed due to the derby.
The organizers don’t actually provide any hard facts on the success or failure of the project, just a bit on anecdotal information and a handy bit of local boosterism, which didn’t seem to address some of the concerns of those who felt differently about the derby.
Whether the derby really had any major impact on the tourism industry locally remains to be seen, harder data such as hotel room bookings, restaurant receipts, charter boat rentals and such might give a better picture. Did the participants take in other local attractions such as the museums in town, the PAC, the golf course, whale watching excursions and such? Or were they just here to do some fishing, living in their travel trailers, taking time only to buy some groceries or have a beer before heading back out on the water.
An event such as the derby makes it hard to divine the final impact that the derby had or didn’t have for that matter, the derby was not like a tour package purchased from afar, those folks very well may have been planning on driving this way anyways, derby or no derby.
At any rate, the derby is in the books and like a final cast into the water it’s time to let the spinners reel in one more fish story. The derby proved to be a controversial event over its six week run, though indications are that it may not be a one time only event. Some have suggested that they make it an annual event, a project that will certainly find more than a few willing to take up the debate on its merits to the overall picture of the local economy.
We have two bits of reading material for our Podunkian browsers, the Daily News story on the thoughts of Director Wishart and a rather interesting view from up the highway, dipped in a wee vat of sarcasm is a piece from the Northern Sentinel that seems to indicate the perception of those outside of the Prince Rupert area.
SALMON DERBY ORGANIZERS LOOKING BACK WITH PRIDE
After tallying tickets and measuring local impact they declare it a success
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Tuesday, October 3, 2006.
With less than a month-long window to put together the Great Northern Salmon Classic, derby organizers feel the event went well and was a success on several fronts.
“We’ve clearly seen an impact in northern Alberta and northeaster British Columbia,” said Bruce Wishart, executive director of Tourism Prince Rupert.
“We had very little time to promote the event, but as the six weeks went on, awareness of it just blossomed,”
The Great Northern Salmon Classic was one of the four initiatives undertaken by the Northern Fund Management Committee, a group that comprised representatives from tourism offices between Prince George and Haida Gwaii, after special relief funding was announced by the Ministry of Tourism, Sport and the Arts after the sinking of the Queen of the North.
Tourism Prince Rupert rant he derby on behalf of the Management Committee.
“With the creation of the Management Committee not announced until June 20, and the derby not announced until July 10, we had very little time to put the plan into effect before the first weigh-in on Aug. 1,” said Wishart.
“I’m very proud of our staff and our partner organizations for how effectively and professionally this was brought together in what was essentially a three-week planning window. Many of the visitors to the weigh-in station were surprised to learn that this was a first time event. In one case, we even had his Excellency Dr. Otto Ditz, Austrian Ambassador to Canada, and his wife visiting the weigh-in and expressing their surprise that such an exciting event could have been brought together so quickly.”
The derby raised a lot of eyebrows this summer, with concerns raised by commercial fisherman, First Nations and politicians about the impact on other stocks. In order to address conservation concerns, the management committee paid for a Creel survey to monitor the impacts.
The results of that survey are expected to be released in November.
In the meantime, a total of 1,685 derby tickets were sold, and a total of 1,535 fish of all species passed through the weigh-in station at the Atlin Terminal between Aug. 1 and Sept. 15.
Organizers were aiming for about 2,000 tickets sold.
The main prizes may have been for the largest fish, but with the coho arriving at the weigh-in station averaging 9-10 lbs., participants were clearly angling for the many ‘mystery weight’ prizes, said the organizers.
They also felt the event was successful in its state goal of encouraging families to experience sport fishing together, with almost 200 anglers under 18 years of age and more than 400 female anglers buying tickets.
“We were also very pleased to have seen this become an event which was fun for residents as well as visitors,” said Wishart. “In fact, the Great Northern Salmon Classic itself became something of a tourist attraction. People gathered at Atlin Terminal to see the fish cleaned and weighed in, and visitors were given a chance to mingle with local charter operators and learn about local sport fishing opportunities.”
Approximately 20 per cent of the prizes were awarded to anglers from the Prince Rupert area, with the rest going to participants from as far afield as Texas, New York, and the Northwest Territories. Initial results from the creel survey conducted by J. O, Thomas indicated that there was a higher proportion of non-resident boaters on the water during the derby, suggesting that the derby promotion may have had an impact on changing the demographic of the industry.
It’s difficult to gauge the exact impact of the Great Northern Salmon Classic based on numbers “alone,” Wishart said. “We have no indication of how many visitors would have booked fishing excursions had ferry traffic been at normal levels. We are most excited by the fact that we have been able to keep very accurate records on the participants in the Salmon Classic, and with the six-week derby providing us an adequate sample, we have an accurate snapshot of our fishing visitor for the first time ever. With the short planning window, it was difficult to have an impact on traffic in 2006, but we’re confident that we can now capitalize on this tremendous promotion of fishing opportunities in the Northwest for many years to come.”
The final report on the Great Northern Salmon Classic is expected to be released in October.
We're team players too
By Malcolm Baxter
The Nortern Sentinel
September 27, 2006.
The Great Northern Salmon Classic is over, the coho angling extravaganza put on by Prince Rupert with six-figures worth of financial help from the provincial government, albeit funneled through a northern tourism promotion committee.
While Tourism Prince Rupert executive director Bruce Wishart - a member of that committee - says there's still a lot of work to do in terms of calculating the exact impact the derby had on tourism in the Northwest, I'm going to be uncharacteristically generous.
As I recall, the organizers played up the regional benefit angle again and again in answering those critical of a single community getting such a huge slice of the promotional pie.
But let's assume that when all the numbers are crunched, it emerges that the derby indeed achieved what it set out to do - boost tourism right across the northwest.
(Prince Rupert more than the rest of us, of course, but then they did all the work in putting it on so deserve the extra.)
So we've established a fish derby on this scale is desirable in terms of the region as a whole.
Wishart is already talking in terms of a repeat event next year. And we, as part of the region that will benefit from it, should applaud the idea.
But doesn't it strike you as slightly unfair that Prince Rupert alone should be expected to carry the burden of putting on this event.
If we are all sharing in the benefits of the derby, then it seems only equitable that we should all share that burden.
So I propose that Kitimat step up to the plate and volunteer to take its turn staging the Classic as a proud member of Tourism Team Northwest.
One of Wishart's comments following the derby was, "I think that every year it is done it will get better."
Well, sir, that's certainly been the experience here in Kitimat where we've been putting on fish derbies for 19 years.
And we'd be more than happy to give the region the economic benefit of that experience.
After all, that's what being a team player is all about.