A rural tourism symposium focusing on wildfire recovery and industry development concluded in Williams Lake Sunday following three days of discussion among industry stakeholders and community guests.
The event, co-ordinatred by the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association, was titled ‘Beyond the Fires’ and began Friday evening, followed by a full day of panel discussion Saturday, and presenters and group discussion Sunday.
Sunday morning’s discussion opened with a three-member presentation from Destination BC titled ‘Marketing and Destination Development After the Wildfires.’
Tracy Bains, marketing manager, strategy and channel integration, Richard Porges, vice president of corporate development, and Peter Harrison, director of industry partnerships and visitor services, explained 98 per cent of tourism businesses in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast were affected by the 2017 summer wildfires.
The group shared Destination BC’s approach to marketing activities taken to counteract losses to tourism due to the scale of the wildfires, and the duration of the impact it’s had on the region.
“There’s been a transformation on how we do things,” Porges said, pointing to how the online world of social media and the Internet has impacted the way potential guests are receiving their information.
“There are certain expectations in regards to access to information,” he said. “Our strategy is to captivate, generate and advocate for B.C. tourism.”
Bains said Destination BC’s Explore BC campaign saw $400,000 in marketing activity spent on the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast campaign. The program began in November of 2017 and will wrap up this month.
“It relies on digital advertising, paid search, e-mail, social influence and sponsored articles,” Bains said.
“The message for us: stay positive, focus on what’s important … we are very hopeful to see those dividends come through.”
Sunday’s second presentation saw Rita Giesbrecht, who is working in collaboration with Chris Harris on a project with the CCCTA, speak about carrying on the message that the region was, in fact, not destroyed by fire, but regenerated.
Following the presentations, CCCTA CEO Amy Thacker told the Tribune she thought it was an extremely beneficial two days of dialogue and discussion.
“It was a good balance over the two days,” Thacker said. “The wildfires had a huge impact on our region. Ninety-eight per cent of businesses were impacted last year.
“An economic impact study showed $55 million in direct revenue to local businesses was lost.
“I think after this weekend we’re now more connected, it’s been fun and we’re helping solve some of the issues we experienced last year. We’re looking at risks and assessing what that looks like in the future.”
She added she was very pleased and thought the symposium showcased a wide range of representatives and had great engagement.
“People have networked and met new people and believe that their voice can have power after everything we went through last summer,” she said.