The future of tourism in the South Cariboo, in the long term at least, is bright.
That was the consensus at the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association’s 60th annual general meeting at the 100 Mile House Community Hall Thursday, Nov. 3. CCCTA CEO Amy Thacker said that the industry should return to 2019 levels optimistically by 2023 at the earliest or by 2025 if the more pessimistic predictions prove true.
“The reports I’ve been getting so far have been ‘cautiously optimistic.’ Our businesses and operators had a good season this year, one of the best for many years,” Thacker said. “There were no fires, no floods and COVID restrictions eased so we go to see what travel is going to look like (going forward).”
Much of this optimism is fuelled by the return of the International Market to the South Cariboo. Thacker said German and British tourists are passionate about the Canadian wilderness and enjoy coming to the area. Domestic and US tourist numbers are also up along with tourists from Mexico, which has been a pleasant surprise.
Thacker said after a three-year delay it was great to finally host their AGM in 100 Mile House. The AGM drew stakeholders from across the province including members of Destination British Columbia, the Tourism Industry Association of BC, the British Columbia Hotel Association and several local groups.
“It’s very wonderful to be able to see people in person. The tourism and hospitality industry is all about people and to now be able to see each other has been challenging for us,” Thacker said.
Mayor Maureen Pinkney was in attendance and said she was honoured that 100 Mile House hosted the AGM on the CCCTA’s 60th anniversary. Pinkney said the association has done a lot to support tourism in the South Cariboo and seems poised to continue to do so in the future.
“It’s exciting to see all the things they have on the go,” Pinkney said. “Everybody is working together collaboratively to make the whole industry thrive and that’s huge.”
The CCCTA’s fiscal year ends in March. Thacker said some of their key projects this year have been wrapping up a regional trail strategy and launching a new sustainability committee to develop new environmentally friendly projects.
Pinkney said that trails, both for hiking and mountain biking, are a key part of 100 Mile House’s tourism industry. Anything that can be done to enhance those trails and fund their maintenance will be hugely beneficial to everyone in the South Cariboo.
100 Mile Nordics president Chris Keam said he found the AGM very informative to attend. He liked hearing what the strategy is for the area and thinks they have some good ideas.
During the meeting, Keam said he highlighted the importance of obtaining grants and retaining volunteers. Like many volunteer-run organizations, he said the Nordics are in constant need of additional funding and personnel to run their operations. However, he added that unlike other tourism groups they were not negatively impacted by the pandemic.
“Skiing is well suited to a pandemic because you just go up there by yourself and aren’t in crowded conditions. We did see a bit of a drop in attendance but not a big one,” Keam said. “I do think now we’ll see people come back and we’ll see a healthy rebound that hopefully sticks.”
Keam said as a newcomer to the area he can see how great 100 Mile House’s natural beauty is. With some good marketing, he’s confident that the community has a bright tourism future.
“I think that the industry is overall positive and people should get engaged. I expect, with our government changes, we are going to see new support for tourism, hospitality, business, and industry,” Thacker said. “I expect more funding on the horizon and I want to ensure much of that comes to rural businesses as possible.”
At the end of the meeting, the CCCTA voted in new members for the board of directors including Andre Kuerbis, Marshall Fremlin, Mike Retasket, James Douglas, Jayme Kennedy and Shannon Lansdowne.