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Program helps tourism operators be resilient in COVID-19 world

The BC Tourism Resiliency Network is a long-term resiliency program providing B.C. tourism businesses with meaningful access to tourism and business experts, delivering one-on-one support to businesses as they navigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting them as they adapt and work towards recovery.

“The pandemic has significantly impacted the tourism sector in northern B.C.,” explains Clint Fraser, Chief Executive Officer, Northern BC Tourism Association. “We are continuing to prioritize the Tourism Resiliency Program to assist tourism businesses and working to ensure the recovery of the visitor economy in the north.

The program has already assisted over 100 businesses in the region with guidance and expertise from some of the leading minds and experts in the tourism industry, helping their businesses to pivot and grow.

The Salmon Valley Campground suffered a massive reduction in revenue as a result of COVID-19. With a shortened operating season, a drop in capacity to accommodate for social distancing, and, most challenging of all, a loss of American and international tourists travelling up the Alaska Highway, 2020 presented an array of challenges.

“Trust me, I had tears. We didn’t know if we were going to open…you start to wonder like – did I do the right thing,” said owner Bobbi Carpino. 

As soon as it became available in late April, Bobbi enrolled in the Northern BC Tourism Resiliency Program. From the helpful conversations and guidance from the program’s experts, Bobbi and her family have focused in on their business model and priorities. As a result, they are choosing to move away from being an events venue and more toward a family-oriented resort and attraction, with a newfound emphasis on safety.

Another Northern BC tourism operator that was forced to adapt as a result of COVID-19 is Last Frontier Heli-Skiing. With a storied history as the first heli-skiing operation in northern B.C. Today, due to the COVID-19 pandemic closing the borders, they are experiencing a loss of their largest market – international travellers.

“The impact on our business was immediate. We lost four weeks of operation in the spring of 2020,” said Steve Rosset from Last Frontier. “Being a part of the Tourism Resiliency Network has reminded me that we are not in this alone.”

LF Image.jpgInstead of opting to shut down this winter, they pivoted in the face of the pandemic to market to Canadian travellers at a 50 per cent discount. Although they will not be generating the same revenues as a typical year, they were able to keep staff employed and generate interest from the domestic market.

Northern Rockies Fitness is an outdoor experience like no other offering hiking retreats to the highest points of northern BC with spectacular sights and personal reflections along the journey. Founder, Jocelyn, says that her business has felt the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, but in an unexpected way. Northern Rockies Fitness saw minimal cancellations and saw inquiries from a wider BC audience than they historically had attracted. Jocelyn believes that this is because people simply just wanted to get outside.

The Northern BC Tourism Resiliency Program continues to be a helping hand to Jocelyn, helping her understand how to navigate the new challenges for her business in terms of expanding, marketing to a wider audience, and navigating some of the challenges with the permitting process.

Northern BC Tourism has added two new Business Resiliency Specialists to the team, Alex Buri and Jennifer Moore, who will work directly with tourism businesses across Northern BC to build their long-term resiliency. As the front-line representatives, they will be assisting tourism businesses to access the program and leverage the program benefits to their fullest potential, based on the individual needs of each business.

“Northern BC is my backyard and the health of the businesses and organizations here are near and dear to my heart. It is so exciting to see and hear success stories already coming out of this new program,” said, Jennifer Moore. “The renewed dedication to the program is just another signal of how important tourism is to our province and local businesses,” added Alex Buri. 

The Northern BC Tourism Resiliency Program is still taking applicants. Businesses across the region are encouraged to register online. Once they have registered, tourism businesses will be paired with a Program Advisor who, through a needs assessment consultation by phone, will facilitate customized support for each business that includes navigating available relief measures, resource links, answers to frequently asked questions and free appointments with program experts in finance, human resources, legal services and more.

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