People are drawn to the many outdoor activities here in Smithers, like fishing. Photo contributed

Tourism Smithers executive director relieved to get operating grant

Gladys Atrill says tourism season looks ‘bleak’ but hopes to attract British Columbians to the area

The executive director of Tourism Smithers is relieved the organization will be able to continue operating following receipt of a $33,900 grant from the Province.

“Getting that grant from the Province, helps the entity continue functioning through this year,” said Gladys Atrill. “It’s going to be at a greatly reduced level and we’re making efforts to find other project money as well through some grants, but basically it’s the difference between keeping it running or not, so I’m very relieved.”

Tourism Smithers is normally funded by the Municipal Regional District Tax (MRDT, aka hotel tax). Last year, revenue from the MRDT was close to $250,000, but this year Atrill has it estimated at less than $50,000.

READ MORE: COLUMN: Residents should explore B.C. to help tourism industry amid COVID-19

In a press release May 22, the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (TAC) announced $10 million in direct support to community destination marketing organizations.

“The tourism industry is a major economic engine and job creator for people in B.C., but the impacts of COVID-19 have left the industry struggling,” said Lisa Beare, minister of TAC. “We are supporting the tourism industry today to make sure we can welcome visitors to explore Super, Natural British Columbia when it is safe to do so.”

Despite the influx of operating cash, Atrill projects a poor season for the hospitality industry.

VISIT: Black Press has a new travel site

“Bleak is really the way I’ve been thinking about it,” she said. “So much here is reliant on transporter travel, like U.S. border and international travel as well.”

Nevertheless, with travel restrictions easing slightly — at least internally within the province — and campsites, parks, restaurants, pubs and personal services businesses reopening, Atrill is hopeful the area will be able to salvage at least some of the tourist season.

“Across the board, British Columbian travellers are still vital to the B/C tourism sector, they’re about 50 per cent of the total, but in terms of direct spending, some of those other travellers spend more, especially international travellers. However, this year the focus is going to be on regional and British Columbia travellers.”

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