Within the Tourism Master Plan one of the focus areas is on the diversity of visitors, with a strategic direction as part of that being embracing second homeowners in order to create ambassadors for Fernie.
Gyorki explained that as second homeowners were a major part of Fernie, it was important to think about how they contributed to tourism, as many were introduced to Fernie as tourists in the first place.
“They’re here for a reason, just like we are. They bought a house here because they love being here,” she said. Knowing they were passionate about Fernie, and also lived full-time elsewhere meant that they were ideal ambassadors for Fernie in other communities, and in an ideal position to recommend the best times to visit Fernie and potentially help increase tourism in quieter times of year.
Embracing second homeowners could take the form of the development and distribution of a welcome package for new and existing second homeowners to help them feel like locals, and identify an incentive program so that second homeowners would be active advocates for the town.
Gyorki explained that second homeowners could help with sustainable tourism by spreading the good word on options available in Fernie in fall and spring, and by encouraging visitors to visit Fernie when it wasn’t peak season and businesses were already maxed out.
A tourism master plan isn’t a document that can solve housing issues, but Gyorki said it was important for the TMP to recognize the part tourism played in housing in Fernie.
“There’s multiple reasons why prices are high,” she said, highlighting how attractive Fernie was as a place to live, the many high-paying jobs as a result of the mining industry, and the fact that many residents came here as tourists with disposal income.
“Tourism recognizes its role in that piece and the need to work and support housing projects that will help address some of that concern.”
Gyorki said that while tourism as an industry was not able to fix housing or affordability, certain operators and other players in the valley could be part of further collaboration in addressing the issue.
Visitor experiences are a major focus of the TMP, with some stand-out strategic directions being a need to expand indoor activities, protect and enhance the historic downtown and to create focal visitor points for staging and gathering.
Gyorki said focal visitor points were places like the tourism information centre, popular parks and trail-heads.
The TMP recommends that in the short term, there was need to identify locations that needed more amenities and improvements to enhance visitor experiences. Additionally, collaboration was needed between recreational tourism groups to identify issues and solutions related to their focus areas.
On expanding indoor activities, the TMP primarily lays out the need for more research and strategies on ‘weatherizing’ Fernie’s tourism options so that visitors have more to do when it’s raining. A long-term goal was a feasibility study on a new Arts and Cultural Centre.
The sustainability of Fernie as an authentic destination and the environment around it is another major focus of the TMP, which Gyorki said was meant to help level out peaks in tourism that might put undue strain on the town, and mitigate negative effects of rampant tourism.
Inclusive in the sustainability portion, the TMP highlights a need for adequate and qualified staff in Fernie, a more resilient sector that can bounce back from disaster (like the pandemic), and manage tourism-related capacity issues.
On capacity, the TMP identified a need for more resources for improved trail maintenance, improved connectivity and signage for popular attractions and trails in order to ‘spread out’ users.
Community engagement was key in the sustainability sector, with the vast majority of locals indicating they supported and encouraged tourism with the proviso that it must be developed in a respectful way.