By Roy Corbett
In 2017, Smithers was declared #11 in Expedia.ca’s “The 40 #Happiest Places in Canada.” That same year, online voters elected to award Smithers’ Main Street“the Canadian Institute of Planners’ People’s Choice award for Greatest Street.” However, this is the summer that Expedia.ca declared Smithers to be one of “The Most Instagram-Worthy Places in Canada” (4th place).
“And that’s done by words that say ‘I love my town. Wow Smithers. My hometown is great’ and those are compiled from Expedia’s data collection of great things said about communities [on social media] and from that they determine, for this case, who is the happiest town in Canada,” says Heather Gallagher, manager of the Smithers Chamber of Commerce.
To Gallagher, our town’s positive social-media presence is not only a point of pride for our community, but an effective means of attracting tourists.
“Because of our tourism and resources base we have a lot to offer,” says Gallagher. “There are beautiful and fantastic back-country experiences that are enjoyed by both the locals and the tourists. We recently just had the opening of the two breweries which is a real regional draw. I was going by one brewery the other night. There was twenty-five bikes out front. They were biking up, getting off, visiting their friends for just a quick one and taking off again. It really adds to the vitality of the town: The downtown coffeeshops and outdoor venues for coffee. Great experiences. People come here to shop because it’s a shopping experience. People can roam around with their coffee-cup in their hand. Enjoy the beautiful, unique boutiques and take into one of our fantastic restaurants.”
“Over 100 people come Friday night downtown to Vogel square. Locals and tourists. The tourists love it. If they are on a flexible schedule and we tell them the lawnchair lounge is going on Friday night they’ll say, ‘hey that sounds good, we’ll stick around and stay, and we’ll take that in’ so they take their lawnchairs down and view the fantastic local talent we have.”
Tourism plays a significant role in the local economy in Smithers. According to the Chamber of Commerce, local tourism-related businesses generate over $400 million in revenue annually and employs roughly 8,400 people. Roughly one-million people visit Smithers a year, and while most tourists visiting Smithers come from within BC, Gallagher says there is also a significant portion coming from outside of Canada as well.
“We have a huge amount that come from Europe, probably almost as many as regionally, and from the United States.”
According to Gallagher, this year’s tourism statistics have not declined since the summer of last year, remaining roughly the same despite a recent local fishing ban and the ominous presence of wildfires in surrounding areas.
“It’s sad that the province is experiencing that. We haven’t had it affect our numbers at all,” Gallagher said about the fires. “Many people can get here through the highway. There’s been no closures that way, so they can certainly find their way here. Maybe there’s a bit of smoke in the air that they may comment on, but they are actually happy to get somewhere that’s actually clear of all of that.”
One new promotional tool is the Smithers Car: a “roaming billboard” used to draw tourist attention.
“You get a lot of attention on the road from other tourists. Our name is out there too,” says Gallagher.”It’s getting out there and getting a lot of attention.