As British Columbia moves forward into phase three of their restart plan, tourism is once again ramping up in the Elk Valley.
Phase three officially allows residents to travel within the province, while also permitting visitors from other provinces to enter safely. As such, Tourism Fernie is actively marketing in British Columbia and Alberta, encouraging safe travel and overnight visitation while abiding by all regulations set out by the B.C. government and provincial health officer.
According to Jikke Gyorki, executive officer for Tourism Fernie, many local businesses rely on summer tourism for sustainability. While they are facing challenges due to limited travel, local businesses are welcoming increased tourism as it assists with generating revenues, maintaining the local economy, and supporting cherished community amenities.
According to Gyorki, Alberta represents over 65 per cent of Fernie’s typical summer market. Even though Destination BC enhanced provincial marketing, Fernie’s distance from B.C’s larger population centres and proximity to Calgary renders Albertans critical to the sustainability of local businesses.
“Tourism is a critical economic sector of our community, generating over $100 million in outside revenues spent in our town annually,” said Gyorki. “Local businesses and residences that work not just in tourism, but also with the many businesses that support the tourism businesses, would not be sustainable without tourism. Tourism has been a part of the community for over 100 years. Without it our community would not see the level of activities, amenities, shopping, dining, trails, and beautification that we love and appreciate.”
To support Fernie’s businesses, Gyorki suggests locals plan staycations, or partake in guided activities such as rafting, hiking, bike clinics, or fly fishing. To assist with this endeavour, Tourism Fernie recently launched a local initiative to encourage local tourism, accessible at FernieStaycation.com.
Further advocating for the importance of local tourism as the pandemic ensues, Tourism Fernie led an initiative on behalf of the Kootenay region, partnering with other regional tourism organizations and chambers of commerce. In a letter to premier John Horgan, they addressed issues unique to the Kootenays including the timing, messaging and geographic areas for visitation.
Tourism Fernie also assisted with the creation of the Work in Fernie website, as well as the Resort Municipality Initiative program, and have put forth a marketing campaign to support local tourism and overnight visitation to Fernie. They are currently busy updating the Tourism Master Plan in partnership with a local 14-person stakeholder task force.
Gyorki noted that Tourism Fernie, community organizations, the city, and local businesses are abiding by all provincial directives and guidelines to keep everyone safe, however residents are still responsible for following all social distancing, travel, and hygiene directives. Tourism Fernie encourages Fernieites to be kind and respectful to locals and tourists, while urging residents to relay information about the importance of Fernie’s tourism economy, supporting local businesses, and traveling safe to all visiting family and friends.