Thursday, November 19, 2020

As Challenging year for Tourism Prince Rupert nears an end, Today's Annual General Meeting set to review the year that was

The membership of Tourism Prince Rupert will gather virtually over the noon hour today, with a call to order for the Annual General Meeting for 2020 and a review of one of the most unusual years that the tourism sector has ever seen on the North Coast.

Along with a range of reports from the President, the Executive Director and Treasurer and the Election of Directors, much of the review for the day will be culled from the Tourism Prince Rupert Annual Report, which this year is framed very much by how the organization addressed the challenges that were delivered by a year long COVID-19 pandemic.

The twenty one page document explores the COVID response and recovery program that was put together as the future became pretty clear by Mid-March that 2020 would be like no year before it.

Though as they note in the introduction to the 2020 Report, building on local support and advocacy through this past year has positioned the organization  to maintain a positive outlook for the years ahead.

A strong focus on local support and advocacy, some regional marketing in the summer, participation in a number of shared regional strategies, the revitalization of our corporate brand assets, and finally, a renewed long-term planning process put in place for 2021, Tourism Prince Rupert’s staff & Board of Directors are confident that the local tourism sector remains resilient and the outlook for long-term growth continues to maintain a positive trajectory.

But before they turn the page on 2020, the review of the year that will soon come to an end provides for a glimpse into some of that resiliency that the membership has shown in the past and may still be required in the short term into the year ahead.

The year was framed by a number of decisions by government officials and tourism stakeholders that certainly provided for the strong impact on what had been hoped to be a strong year for the tourism industry.

Among the key decisions, the travel restrictions in place through the Spring and into the early summer which urged Canadians to stay local this year, the lack of a Cruise Ship Season which left the Northland Terminal a vacant building for the entire season and the closure of the North Pacific Cannery Historical Site in Port Edward for the year, leaving one of the top attractions in the Northwest shuttered for an entire season.

Among some of the measures that  Tourism Prince Rupert adopted as the pandemic began to change the focus for their original 2020 visitor plan were:

Official closure of the Visitor Information Centre
Freeze on the Tourism Prince Rupert Marketing Budget for 2020
Launch of a weekly COVID-19 email newsletter
Weekly updates on the outlook for the Tourism Sector in the region
Development of the Prince Rupert Small Business Task Force, that part of a partnership with the City of Prince Rupert and Chamber of Commerce
Success in a request of the City to waive patio permit fees
Advocating successfully for the refund of seasonal business licences for the sports fishing industry
Launch of the Small Business Sweepstakes Social Media campaign

The organization also engaged in a number of advocacy work efforts, seeking to ensure that the concerns of their members were heard by Municipal, provincial and Federal representatives.

The Annual Report also reviews the Resident Travel Sentiment Survey that was launched over the summer and some of the marketing initiatives that came following the Survey, including a look at the See For yourself campaign which kept the focus on tourism opportunities from communities within the Northwest.

A review of many of the other initiatives such as those designed to increase ferry traffic through the region, joint regional campaigns and coop marketing programs also makes for a substantial part of the document.

The key takeaway as to how the year went however does provide for some dramatic comparisons from 2019  to 2020's visitor count, with only 5,305 visitors stopping by the Atlin Terminal's Visitor Information Centre this season.

That drop a significant one from one year ago, when a Full Cruise season and unrestricted travel delivered close to 26,000 visitors to the Information Centre.

The hopeful look for the year ahead acknowledges that there is still a significant amount of uncertainty when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic and what course it may follow into 2021, with Tourism Prince Rupert like many of us awaiting word on the evolution of a vaccine program and delivery of it.

Until we return to a more normal time and more familiar opportunities for travel, Tourism Prince Rupert plans to continue to monitor the ongoing list of travel restrictions and recommendations from the provincial health authorities.

That's something that may arise as early as later today, with a much anticipated health briefing from Doctor Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix, a briefing that is now widely expected to deliver some further travel restrictions in the face of surging levels of COVID in the province.

While they digest whatever announcement may come later in the afternoon, Tourism Prince Rupert's closing summation of their outlook for 2020, provides for the guiding declaration for their ongoing commitment towards addressing the challenges ahead.

Tourism Prince Rupert will continue to focus on long-term planning and supporting the resiliency of our local sector well into 2022. In late 2020, Tourism Prince Rupert’s Board of Directors began the process to renew our five-year Strategic Plan, which currently extends from 2016- 2021. Throughout 2021, we will look to long- term planning, including developing increased strategies for destination development, local business support and advocacy, and refreshed marketing strategies. 

In addition, we will continue to execute our annual marketing activities, carefully encouraging support of Prince Rupert’s tourism-reliant businesses in a way that is considerate of travel restrictions and recommendations put forward by the provincial health office.

You can access the full report, including the financial statements for the organization from the visitprincerupert website.

You can sit in on their Annual General Meeting this noon hour as it streams live through the Zoom Portal

To access today's presentations use this link

For more background on the Northwest tourism sector see our archive page here.

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