The community of Campbell River, B.C., has launched a campaign to support small tourism operators through the next leg of the pandemic.
With very few international visitors expected again this summer, the Campbell River and District Chamber of Commerce is encouraging locals to take part in the area's tourist activities, such as whale-watching, sport fishing and kayaking.
Chamber of commerce executive director Mary Ruth Snyder says the bid to help tourist operators is an extension of a campaign announced last spring that asked people to shop and dine locally.
"Absolutely continue to support the retailers, go get that special little gift — but add an experience to it. Campbell River has so many unique tour operators, amazing accommodation, right on the water," she said in an interview on CBC's All Points West.
Stephen Gaborik, the owner of Campbell River Whale Watching and Adventure Tours, says his business has really struggled over the past year because it normally relies heavily on international visitors.
"We found that there just wasn't enough travellers and enough people moving around to really sustain our business," Gaborik said.
He was hoping this summer would be better than last, but with the borders still closed he's says he is starting to lose hope and is preparing for a summer much like 2020.
"We're going to be focused again on our local market and relying on that support. We just really want to encourage people to get out and spend money on local sports in our own backyard," Gaborik said.
That's where the campaign comes in.
Snyder is encouraging locals to consider an experience for special events like Father's Day or birthdays, or just as a way to escape the day-to-day.
"Go kayaking, go canoeing, go whale-watching. The museum has historical book tours through the summer so you can learn a little bit about the area where you live. It's an absolutely wonderful way to reconnect with the land around you," she said.
Premier John Horgan recently announced $50 million in support for the tourism industry, with much of it focused on landmark "anchor" attractions. Snyder says she would like to see the parameters for who can apply for support widened.
"There are a lot of tour operators that don't hit those big million-dollar benchmarks and they are still the ones that need help in a really big way," she said.
Snyder says she is hopeful that some restrictions will be lifted in the upcoming weeks and British Columbians will be able to travel around the province this summer. In the meantime, she encourages everyone to continue to support their own communities.