Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Seeking a strategy for the regions tourist industry

The sport fisherman apparently are the ones who have the biggest impact on the local tourist scene, while our cruise ship visitors seem to be a tad protective of their dollars.

Those were some of the thoughts bounced around at the recent unveiling of the community Tourism Foundations report into the state of the local tourist industry in 2008.

The Daily News provided a bit of background on the report and some of the featured contributors to a public session held on August 26th.

Included in the presentations were a number of statements from long time resident Walter Smith, who was described by the Daily as having "claimed” to be part of the tourism industry in town for more than 70 years.

We’re not too sure that the Daily’s George T. Baker, wanted to throw in the word “claimed” as part of the article. Especially when you consider that the Daily News recently published their own article, highlighting his many awards and achievements in that very tourism industry over those 70 some years.

Had he done a little looking around those dusty Daily News archives, or if a helpful editor perhaps had tipped him off, he would have found Mr. Smith's story in the May 27th,2008 edition, as well as an earlier review of an award presented to Mr. Smith by the Chamber of Commerce back in November of 2006.

As for his part of the toursim discussion last week and with his long time vantage point in the industry, Mr. Smith pointed out that at the moment it was the city’s shopping district that needed the most work, as well as the need to have the local First Nations community gain a larger portion of the overall industry results.

The article was featured as the front page story in the paper’s Thursday, August 28 edition.

Stakeholders gather to discuss strategy
By George T. Baker
The Daily news
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Page one

Perhaps Prince Rupert’s biggest challenge when it comes to tourism revenue is whether or not city stakeholders can agree on a tourism plan that works for all involved.

Tuesday night, Tourism B. C. released its Community Tourism Foundations report and plan to an audience of more than 50 Rupertites. The hope was that the plan, which was agreed on by 25 committee members, would be substantial enough to satisfy all members of the tourism industry.

The reaction from the audience was mixed and not all agreed that the plan addresses all the possible revenue streams.

“We need a culture shift in this town,” said Knut Bjorndal, general manager of Community Futures Northwest. “We need to think of tourism differently. Prince Rupert is the best kept secret in the world and we need to enhance our marketing of our town.”

Linda Lee of Strategex Consulting Group, who coordinated the research plans, said that the key factor for tourism to flourish in Prince Rupert was teamwork and a commitment to focusing on a particularly gentry customer base.

“We found that most of the tourists stopping in Prince Rupert were of the 55-and-up crowd who are mostly well educated,” said lee.

Lee also added that the activity she found to be most lucrative for tourism dollars was the sports fishing, which she lamented only makes up eight per cent of the current market but generated 31 per cent of the total revenues.

That comment brought a question for the WWF’s Jen Rice, who said while she wasn’t anti-sport fishing, she wanted to make sure that it was done in a responsible and sustainable manner.

“We need to make sure that conservation groups are involved while we are actively growing that sector,” said Rice.

Mayor Herb Pond agreed with Rice, saying sport fishing would not be just about selling: “It would also be about managing.”

In comparison, she claimed that the cruise ship industry did not offer the same potential as customers on average spend only $100 after visiting for four hours.

Prince Rupert will be losing its Wednesday port-of-call when Royal Caribbean announced that the Rhapsody of the Seas would not be visiting in 2009.

The idea of angling as a major revenue stream caught the audience’s attention as many agreed that should be a focus.

However, some more experienced members of the gallery thought that it was downtown and shopping that needed more investment.

“The 75 per cent of our tourists are elderly and they are not interested in walking out in to the hinterland on a trail,” said Walter Smith.

Smith, who is 93 and has lived in Prince Rupert his whole life, claimed he has been involved in the tourism industry in this town for more than 70 years.

He stood up at the end Lee’s presentation and it was the shopping district and the look of the centre that needed the most work/

“We need to get something in the city limits. Now that fishing has died down our merchants need to evolve and advertise better,” said Smith.

He added that he would also like to see First Nations get a bigger piece of the tourism pie.

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