By Keith McNeill
Over 50 tourism stakeholders attended the Tourism Wells Gray annual general meeting and spring social on April 20, according to marketing manager Stephanie Molina.
The event was hosted by the Painted Turtle Restaurant at Dutch Lake Resort.
Chair Gy Ovenden remarked on the impact of the 2017 wildfires on the industry and how Tourism Wells Gray, in addition to marketing, continues to take a lead role in tourism experience and industry development as well as advocacy for our local tourism industry. This advocacy has been important especially in terms of receiving provincial and regional recovery resources for the industry following last summer’s wildfires and the temporary closure of Wells Gray Park.
Molina presented highlights, which included:
• Strong web and social media performance in 2017;
• 34 per cent increase in website sessions over 2016 with 274,489 pageviews in 2017;
• 13 per cent increase in time on-site in 2017 over 2016 (2:07 minutes on average);
• 62 per cent increase in organic search in 2017;
• 100 per cent increase of Instagram followers from 2016 to 2017.
Combined digital and print advertising campaigns (Tourism Wells Gray and North Thompson Valley) reached over two million people in 2017 in markets that included B.C., Alberta, Ontario, Germany, Washington, California, etc. The advertising was mostly targeted at fall tourism (wildfire recovery), spring, and winter.
Hotel Tax revenue was still up slightly for 2017 despite taking a 25 per cent hit during the July peak season due to the fires. That represented $5.74 million direct revenue to the 17 Hotel Tax collecting properties alone for 2017.
TWG funded and will continue to support two additional weeks of opening at Wells Gray Information Centre (shoulder seasons).
Winter initiatives included receiving a $10,000 Rural Dividend grant for a Clearwater snowmobile tourism feasibility study.
TWG is working with BC Parks to hopefully have the Spahats Falls platform and access maintained during the winter.
Launched Wells Gray Ambassadors program to encourage live content creation (Holly Louwerse, Chance Breckenridge, Ray Jones, Amber Nadeau).
Partners with TOTA on creation of new promotional videos- Videos have been viewed over 720,000 times in 2017
Manager designed and sold advertising for guide, 10,000 copies printed and distributed in 2017. 15,000 for 2018.
The Infocentre was impacted by closures/wildfire (down six per cent from year before).
TWG continues to fund the District of Clearwater sports coordinator position (Melody Romeo), which in 2017 through tournaments resulted in over $435,000 in economic impact for the area.
Media visits included Explore Magazine and a German magazine looking at winter experiences in Wells Gray.
TWG is one of five partners that make up the North Thompson Valley brand.
Stargazing will take place every Wednesday evening at the Wells Gray Air strip during July and August.