Tourism in the South Cariboo is inching back towards normalcy, according to locals in the industry.
Julie Gilmore, manager of the South Cariboo Visitor Centre, said the tourist traffic has been steadily increasing since COVID-19 restrictions began to ease in mid-June.
With school finishing up around the province, Gilmore expects to see more visitors to the 100 Mile area in the coming weeks.
“A lot of people are just wanting to get out and get back into nature again, after being stuck at home for so long,” Gilmore said. “Once the kids are all out of school, I think we’re going to see more families out travelling as well.”
Local resorts are feeling the increase in out-of-town visitors as well.
Dimps Horn, proprietor of the Watch Lake Resort said she’s expecting a busy summer ahead. Just before the province was expected to reopen tourism for the season, she was almost already fully booked. “I think it’s going to be better than last year,” she said. “It’s a fairly safe place to come to because it’s not very big.”
Horn, who grew up at the resort, said she gets a lot of return visitors, many of them having come there when they were children and who now bring their own offspring. In years past, many would come as a large group and take over the campsite.
“It’s almost like old home week,” she said.
At Ruth Lake Lodge, owner France Robert is happy to see an increase in bookings leading into the summer, following a slow spring and difficult last summer.
“Based on current bookings we are hoping for a healthy shoulder season,” Robert said, noting her year-round cottages are often well booked in the winter.
She said she has sporadic availability for her cottages – as well as their campsites which were fully closed last year – but the resort is getting “close to sold out.”
Tourism in the region was highlighted as one of the areas of focus in the District of 100 Mile House’s recently published Economic Development Strategy.
Strategies identified to help boost tourism include improved wayfinding – mapping or GSP systems – to identify points of interest, cohesive partnerships between the District, the South Cariboo Visitor Centre and the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association and a clear and updated inventory of tourism assets in the region.
Gilmore said better mapping of trails – especially for mountain biking – would be a great addition, as the visitor centre has no shortage of inquiries from tourists.
“Huncity (Mountain Bike Club) has done a wonderful job with the 108 and into 100 Mile, but we do see a need and a niche for that,” Gilmore said.
Kid-friendly activities that can give little ones a break from the lake – especially in the recent heat – would also be a helpful, she noted.
“Often people are looking for things like mini-golf or other activities to get the kids off the ale for a while,” Gilmore said.