Tourism Backgrounder

The Issue

The MPB epidemic is expected to impact the economies of the 12 communities, 2 Regional District and 18 First Nations communities in the OBAC region in a variety of ways due to the forest dependency of the local and regional economies. At least 50% of the region’s forests are pine and 37% of the jobs in the region depend directly on forestry. 80% of the mature pine is expected to be killed as a result of the epidemic and the ‘shelf life’ of these pine trees remains uncertain. Tourism is believed to have very strong potential to contribute to diversifying and strengthening the region’s economy. The purpose of the OBAC Tourism Strategy is to identify what actions need to be taken by the provincial and federal governments to support responsible and sustainable growth in the region’s tourism sector. The strategy also identifies what actions local governments, First Nations and industry leaders can take individually, collectively and in concert with senior governments to achieve this goal.

The Goal

To achieve sustainable growth in the OBAC region’s Tourism Sector based upon the region’s wealth of human and natural assets, to enhance the region’s economy and communities.

The Background

The development of the Tourism Strategy has been guided by a working group of people with a variety of community and sector perspectives and areas of expertise. Input was provided by the working group and by a host of people that attended the OBAC Tourism Day, held in May in Prince George. An additional group of people have also provided their input upon review of working drafts of the strategy. Additional research and consultation was conducted by a consulting team lead by Chemistry Consulting Group that facilitated the working group’s efforts and the development of the strategy. Additionally, a number of OBAC Directors and community leaders have contributed to the development of this strategy. The strategy presents a vision of how the region could look in ten years in terms of tourism sector development. The strategy also presents 5 objectives, 4 recommendations and 18 proposed action items all aimed at supporting the goal of responsible and sustainable growth in the region’s tourism sector.

Relative to the rest of the province, the OBAC region's tourism sector is relatively undeveloped with substantial potential for growth. The region has major strengths which include its impressive natural landscapes, outdoor recreation opportunities, and its human resources. There are significant opportunities to increase the contribution that tourism makes to the economy. The region's potential in this sector can be realized through targeted efforts which include: investment in highways, trails, and other infrastructure; an integrated approach to resource management and tenure allocation across sectors; and, increased public and investor knowledge on the value and potential of the tourism sector. The communities of the region recognize the opportunities and are poised to do their part to help grow the sector.

The Vision

The OBAC region envisions a future where a thriving tourism industry is recognized and valued as a key contributor to a diversified and resilient economy; and where:

  • A progressive and supportive business environment provides certainty for tourism operators and fosters tourism-related investment and entrepreneurship;
  • Communities are pursuing and benefiting from a regionally integrated and collaborative approach to developing the region’s tourism sector; and,
  • The region’s natural, cultural and community assets support diverse and accessible tourism opportunities that are well-known to, and esteemed by visitors.

In support of this Vision, the objectives proposed in this strategy are to:

Objective 1. Establish a regionally collaborative approach to growing the tourism sector that is responsive to community interests and market opportunities.

Objective 2. Make the best use of the region’s considerable assets to attract tourism and to grow and diversify the sector.

Objective 3. Increase government, investor and resident recognition of and confidence in the economic potential of tourism in the region.

Objective 4. Provide greater certainty for operators across a range of tourism opportunities and encourage increased investment through the development of a positive business environment.

Objective 5. Mitigate the impacts to tourism resulting from the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation and its management.

The Recommendations

The proposed strategy Recommendations and Actions together answer the question: “Who needs to do what, when and why” to achieve the proposed Vision and Objectives outline above. The 18 actions will be the basis for action planning in the next step beyond the adoption of this strategy. The action plan will answer the question “how to do it and how much”. The four proposed Recommendations for this strategy are:

Recommendation 1:

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

Recommendation 2:

Improve access for travelers to and within the OBAC region.

Recommendation 3:

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

Recommendation 4:

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

The Actions

There are over 18 actions proposed across these recommendations that can be implemented to build a supportive environment to diversify and create opportunities in the tourism sector. The detailed actions, rationales, and timelines are presented under each of these recommendations in Section 6 of the full strategy. The overall implementation of this strategy will require key and timely decisions by the Provincial and Federal Governments, local governments and industry associations.

Selected porposed actions include:

  • Establish a coordinated regional approach to managing tourism interests on Crown land.
  • Determine and establish detailed land and resource management objectives which are tied to the land base and which will guide resource management decisions.
  • Improve highway services for travelers along Highways 97, 16, 39, 27 and 5 by developing or enhancing rest stops, viewing areas and tourism information.
  • Improve air, bus and rail access to and within the OBAC region.
  • Develop or enhance the region’s trails and trail networks to attract more summer and winter users.
  • Improve the services needed to attract more Recreational Vehicle travelers to the region and to extend their stay in the region.
  • Establish a Regional Tourism Advisory working group that is comprised of community and tourism sector representatives, with a mandate to work with regional and local governments on tourism-related economic diversification and development opportunities.
  • 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.
  • Increase investor awareness of high potential sites for various tourism opportunities.
  • 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.
  • Support the development and/or enhancement of interpretive and education services throughout the region that can add to the visitor experience.

The Next Steps

This strategy tells us the “what, who, when and why”, the next step is to determine “how to and how much” it will take to achieve the goal. The immediate next steps include:

  • Following release of the strategy planned for June 30th, bring together senior staff from relevant government agencies to work with OBAC to quickly develop an OBAC Tourism Strategy Action Plan that presents details on “how to and how much” for implementation.
  • Work with senior governments and other implementation allies to enable implementation of the OBAC Tourism Strategy Action Plan and integrate actions across strategies.