The overall objective of this Tourism Strategy is to identify and prioritize initiatives for further developing the tourism sector of the OBAC region so as to enable the region to attract investment, enhance existing business opportunities, and position the tourism sector for growth. This strategy is one of ten sector strategies being prepared by OBAC in response to the impacts that the mountain pine beetle epidemic has had on the region’s economy.

This strategy is largely directed towards the federal and provincial governments. Additionally, local and regional governments will have an interest in the strategy as they are best positioned to advise and collaborate with senior governments regarding initiatives related to attracting investment, enhancing existing business opportunities, and positioning the region’s tourism sector for growth. This strategy is also relevant to the BC Council of Tourism Associations (COTA) and the Northern BC Tourism Association (NBCTA) because it identifies and prioritizes opportunities that can be further developed and promoted.

The recommendations and actions presented in this strategy arise from the input provided by a range of tourism and economic development specialists. They also reflect the extensive background information on current and historical regionally relevant tourism initiatives, plus tourism profile and trend statistics. This input and information was used to identify the key opportunities and challenges associated with increasing tourism activity in the region and achieving the tourism vision of OBAC communities.

The tourism vision for OBAC communities is of a future where a thriving tourism industry is recognized and valued as a key contributor to a diversified and resilient economy. A progressive and supportive business environment provides certainty for tourism operators and fosters tourism-related investment and entrepreneurism. Communities are pursuing and benefitting from a regionally integrated and collaborative approach to developing the region’s tourism sector. The region’s natural, cultural, and community assets support diverse and accessible tourism opportunities that are well-known and valued by residents and visitors. In support of this vision, the overall objectives of the strategy are to:

Establish a regionally collaborative approach to growing the tourism sector that is responsive to community interests and market opportunities and that will help the region to better position itself to attract visitors who come to BC as a result of the profile generated by the 2010 Olympic Games;

Make the best use of the region’s considerable assets to attract tourism and to grow and diversify the sector;

Increase government, investor, and resident recognition of and confidence in the economic potential of tourism in the region;

Provide greater certainty for operators across a range of tourism opportunities and encourage increased investment through the development of a positive business environment; and

Mitigate the impacts to tourism resulting from the mountain pine beetle infestation and its management.

The recommendations and actions identified to achieve the above objectives include:

Recommendation 1.

Address land and resource information, planning and policy issues to increase certainty for tourism operators and potential investors.

  • Compile information regarding landscape-level resource values and objectives;
  • Establish a coordinated regional approach to managing tourism and recreational interests on Crown land;
  • Establish detailed land and resource management objectives that are tied to the land base and will guide resource management decisions;
  • Improve information exchange and interaction between tourism and forestry tenure holders;
  • Establish an independent process for reviewing conflicts related to overlapping land use tenures and incompatible uses; and
  • Implement initiatives to mitigate the impacts of mountain pine beetle and general forest management activities on nature-based tourism including using, as one possible tool, the establishment of conservation areas.

Recommendation 2.

Improve access and accessibility for travellers to and within the OBAC region.

  • Improve highway services for travellers along Highways 97, 16, 39, 27 and 5 by developing or enhancing rest stops, viewing areas, and tourism information;
  • Develop and implement a connector road upgrade plan focusing on routes most likely to appeal to visitors;
  • Improve ground transportation services between OBAC communities;
  • Improve air access to the OBAC region;
  • Develop or enhance the region’s urban and rural trails and trail networks to attract more summer and winter users; and
  • Improve the services needed to attract more Recreational Vehicle travelers and to extend their stay in the region.

Recommendation 3.

Increase awareness of the nature and value of, and the opportunities associated with, tourism in the region.

  • Work with Northern BC Tourism Association to establish a regional tourism advisory working group that is comprised of community and tourism sector operators, and representatives that has a mandate to work collaboratively with regional and local governments on tourism-related economic diversification and development opportunities (including addressing barriers that limit tourism growth);
  • Undertake specific activities with local government staff and elected officials focused on sharing information regarding the tourism sector;
  • Undertake specific activities at the community and regional levels that increase resident awareness of both the value of tourism to their community and regional tourism opportunities;
  • Raise awareness of opportunities for entrepreneurs to improve their tourism entrepreneurship and business planning skills, focusing on skills that support emerging and established tourism enterprises; and
  • Increase investor awareness of high potential sites for various tourism opportunities.

Recommendation 4.

Increase tourism in the region by using its features and attractions to full advantage.

  • Identify the features and other attractions in the OBAC region which differentiate what it has to offer relative to other areas in western North America;
  • Support the Northern BC Tourism Association and other partner organizations in their efforts to work collaboratively to develop and implement a marketing strategy and to support the development of the region as an attractive destination;
  • Prepare information packages that can be used to attract tourism investment;
  • Support the development and/or enhancement of interpretive and education services throughout the region that can add to the visitor experience;
  • Increase investment in the maintenance and marketing of forest recreation sites and trails; and
  • Actively encourage tourism operators and workers to participate in the customer service training provided through Tourism BC’s WorldHost® program.

Details are included in Section 6.