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Adventure begins for Tourism Pemberton

Fledgling organization committed to increasing promoting valley’s natural assets



David MacKenzie, chair of Tourism Pemberton, is proud of the fledgling organization’s achievement. Formed as a committee of the Pemberton Chamber of Commerce this past spring, TP has begun to build a brand for itself, with a new logo and tagline: Adventure begins here.

TP has also made the town’s presence known on maps and websites promoting the provincial Coast Cariboo Circle Tour and taken an active roll in getting access restored to Meager Creek Hot Springs. (The bridge was washed out during the Oct. 2003 flood.)

By being an arm of the chamber, MacKenzie feels the new organization will not waste time and resources by re-inventing the wheel.

"Traditionally across Canada, the Chamber of Commerce has fulfilled a visitor information role in communities," explained Mackenzie. "Everyone involved in Tourism Pemberton is a chamber member. And we’ll continue building on the work the chamber has been doing."

One of the first things the new organization did was get in touch with Tourism B.C. to hold a Community Tourism Essentials workshop in February. This two-day workshop, open to all tourism stakeholders and interested community members, resulted in a 42-page report identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the community as well as defining goals and objectives for the new organization. Additionally, a list of priorities was determined and a 20-step action plan was developed.

"The thing we have here to be most proud of are our natural assets," said MacKenzie. "The mountains, the rivers… adventure tourism came up time and time again. The golf, horseback riding, the ATVs, the snowmobiling, the paragliding, rock-climbing and mountaineering, the parks we have here, the soaring, we have some pretty unique activities here."

MacKenzie, who is also general manager of the Pemberton Valley Lodge, is a tourism veteran who has been involved in marketing in similarly positioned communities, such as Jasper, and recognizes the challenges.

"I recognize there are growing pains in small communities, there are people who are working in tourism and don’t really know it," he said. Mackenzie uses farming to illustrate his point. "Some farmer say, ‘Hey, I’m in tourism’, because like Helmer’s Farm, they’re involved in agri-tourism. Others say, ‘Hey, I’m a farmer – agriculture is what I do. I don’t want people visiting my farm.’ And that’s fine, too."

Mackenzie sees healthy communities as having "a good mixture of everything." In addition, while Pemberton has enjoyed agricultural and forestry-based economy in the past, as a sustainable resource the potential of tourism can’t be ignored.

"There’s some small communities in jeopardy today who put their eggs all in one basket," said MacKenzie. "You have 400 people working in a mill. What happens to that town of 2,000 when the mill closes down?"

A priority TP is working on is establishing a marketing plan. The group has been in contact with Community Futures, who assisted with writing a proposal that is currently before the Western Economic Diversification agency.

"We’re very close on receiving a sizable grant that will take care of us and allow us to hire somebody to develop and implement our marketing and tourism strategy for this community," he said.

MacKenzie expects that hiring for the position will occur by mid-September and a strategy will be ready to put in place by next February. The plan will be developed and refined in consultation with chamber members.

However, the lack of a defined action plan has not kept TP from enacting some of the report’s recommendations. The top weakness in terms of marketing natural assets was identified as Meager Creek Hot Springs being inaccessible.

The organization started a very large e-mail, phone and letter writing campaign. With the help of VOP Mayor Elinor Warner, the group has gotten a very good response. The funding is in place, the contract for the new bridge has gone through and the designs are ready.

"We’re at the stage where we’re waiting for the OK from fisheries," said MacKenzie, adding that he expects the bridge will be built in August.

Next, the group plans to install new welcome signs on the highway. They are also investigating the possibility of having a Pemberton representative at the Whistler Info Centre during the months Pemberton’s Info Centre is closed.

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