Lisa Beare, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, right chats with Free Rein Guest Ranch owner Debbie Atha.

Tourism minister visits Cariboo region

Lisa Beare said she was here to explore the Cariboo and to understand things that the region has to offer for visitors to B.C.”

B.C.’s minister of tourism touched down in the Cariboo region this week to meet with the tourism association and some local tourism operators.

Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Lisa Beare visited the Bridge Lake, Canim Lake and Williams Lake areas and also did a flyover.

“On Sunday we took a flight over some of the wildfire areas and had a chance to view impacts in the region and also take a look at some of the special areas of the Cariboo where visitors love to come to,” Beare told the Tribune. “That’s why I’m here, to explore the Cariboo and to understand things that the region has to offer for visitors to B.C.”

Tourism operators she met were resilient, she added.

“A number I met last year when I visited, so we were able to discuss what was different between last year and this year and the lessons learned. The operators were generally very positive and they did have a better year this year. Visitors stayed strong through July into August.”

International visitors who visited had good experiences in the region, she added.

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“They are coming to the Cariboo because they want unique, authentic experiences that they cannot get anywhere else so what better place to do that than the Cariboo.”

Reynolds Resort, on Canim Lake, for example, has an 80 per cent rate of return visitors, Beare said, noting it proves the people are loving the experience they are having and want to return year after year.

“When we were at Free Rein Guest Ranch we learned about their great model where they only take 12 visitors at a time so they can really focus in on visitor experience and add that personal touch. That’s something travellers are looking for.”

At the Rainbow Resort, on Canim Lake, she learned how it is a second-generation operation.

“The parents are passing the resort on to their son and he is raising his family there. It’s a great story of the ongoing commitment to tourism in the region and the fantastic lifestyle.”

Rainbow Resort owners Debbie and Gord Simpson bought it in 1992 when their son, Taylor, was two years old.

“We didn’t want to raise him down on the coast and we had always been holidaying at Sheridan Lake on Highway 24,” Debbie said.

“The owners of Sheridan Park Resort told us, ‘you would probably love to run a resort,’ so we started looking and we found Rainbow.”

The resort was probably started in the 40s or 50s, she added.

It’s been great and Taylor loved the life, she added.

“We always hoped we would be able to pass it on to him. He went away and became a Red Seal mechanic and he came back with his wife, Shay, and son Boone, who was two. Their daughter Indy was born on Feb. 14, 2017 in 100 Mile House.”

Debbie said they couldn’t have hoped for anything more and they have loved their life at the resort.

For Taylor and his family, the wildfires hit the first year of running the resort, and the smoke hit in 2018, but they do have regulars who book every year, Debbie said.

Hearing stories from people working in the industry, Beare said she was able to learn what is working for them and what challenges they are facing.

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“I will get to take that information back with me and have conversations about how we can better support the region moving forward.”

One of the concerns raised was the failure of the Northern Sea Wolf to go into operation this summer on the coast.

“Ferries are not my file, but we will be working to help find a solution in our cross-conversations with other ministries,” she said.

She also met with the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association who accompanied her on her two days touring the area.

Amy Thacker, CCCTA executive director, said the board was pleased to have the minister in the area open to hearing what’s working and what isn’t.

“CCCTA looks forward to working collaboratively with the minister and ministry staff to grow tourism and recover from recent challenges.”

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