Dignitaries gathered at the Tourism Discovery Centre in Williams Lake Wednesday to celebrate three decades of tourism success in the region.
Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett said the Cariboo region is so beautiful that she can’t believe there are people she has met who live in the region and haven’t really explored all it has to offer.
“I have a soft spot in my heart for tourism,” Barnett said. “I totally believe in tourism … Everyone can be a tourist in their own backyard.”
The afternoon coffee and cake celebration marked the 30-year anniversary of the Visitor Centre Network Council in B.C. and the 30th anniversary of the Williams Lake Visitor Information Centre.
Barnett presented a plaque commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Williams Lake Visitor Information Centre.
Barnett also praised Claudia Blair, Williams Lake and District Chamber of Commerce executive director, celebrating her 31-year commitment to developing tourism in the region. She also presented Blair with a plaque honouring her leadership and dedication to the development of the Williams Lake Visitor Information Centre.
Barnett also recalled her own early years working with the Rotary Club to promote tourism in the region during the 70s and 80s. She recalled how the first visitor information centre in 100 Mile House was the former city morgue, and how Expo 1986 in Vancouver had kicked tourism into high gear in B.C.
Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes said she started her own career working for 14 years at the Quesnel Visitor Centre.
Oakes said Blair was a huge mentor and coach for her during those years and “a dear friend, who still keeps me in line.”
In addition to her own praises for Blair, Oakes read out letters of congratulations for Blair, from Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour; Ninette Ollgaard, Destination B.C. director; Sherry McKay, Tourism Prince George visitor services manager; and Patty Morgan Quesnel Visitor Centre manager.
Mayor Walt Cobb also praised Blair and the chamber for their work in developing tourism in the region and noted that the Williams Lake Tourism Discovery Centre is well known throughout Canada and internationally.
Blair said she didn’t expect such an honour for her contributions to tourism and pointed out that she didn’t do the work alone. She had the help of her husband, Graham Smith, and many other people along the way.
“The standards we have now in our visitor centres across the province were set by the network council,” Blair said earlier. “I travel all over the world and there is nothing like what we have. We can call each other up and ask for maps, or guidebooks if we’ve run out of them because everyone carries them.”