Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Lorne Doerkson

Invite guests, boost Cariboo tourism

MLA Lorne Doerkson column

As Canada Day approached, it was fair to say there was a hint of optimism. We were entering stage three in dealing with the pandemic, which meant we’d once again be able to hug people and go out to see friends. And that we’d be able to invite people back to the Cariboo-Chilcotin.

But it didn’t take long for the optimism to go up – literally – in flames.

During the pandemic, so many businesses have faced tough times. It’s easy to become numb to it, to get lost in the hard numbers. The challenge is to remember the people behind those numbers. People who are struggling right now.

Tourism has been especially hard hit. People come to our region for the natural beauty and the spectacular outdoors – access to that land is the commodity. But we’ve had floods, fires, a pandemic, and more fires. It’s been a tough sell.

This summer, the tourism sector was hoping to gain back a little of what has been lost over the last couple of years. Many of these businesses count on international visitors and are booked years in advance, which has made long-term planning difficult. But with restrictions lifting, there was a chance to invite British Columbians to come visit and see what makes this place we call home so special.

Then the fires hit and smoke filled up the valleys and the hills. It was another serious hit to our tourism operators.

Remember, these folks aren’t running Hilton hotels. They’re mom-and-pop operations that employ thousands in our region, drawing people in and helping to support other local small businesses.

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So what can we do? I’m going to suggest all of us – on Facebook, Facetime, or by old-fashioned postcard – invite our friends to come and visit. See what the Cariboo-Chilcotin has to offer and support as many small businesses as you can.

Now, we’re not out of the woods yet when it comes to fire season. So, obviously, follow all the rules from Emergency Management B.C. in order to protect our communities and don’t access areas under alert or ordered for the safety sake of our fire crews. But if we all do one small thing and invite someone to come here, hopefully we can make a big difference to local tourism and our local economy.

I just want to take a moment to say thank you to all those who have done such an incredible job of protecting and supporting our communities. It seems like our people – nurses, firefighters, and local emergency folks – have been on constant call. And yet they keep rising up to meet the challenges. The hours they put in, the compassion they share, and the expertise they possess inspires me each day. And when you consider how many of them are facing threats to their own property, it’s even more amazing.

So if you get a chance, say thanks. They’ve earned it.

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