Opinion

Prince Rupert's approach to tourism

It is often said that tourism is an “industry of industries.”

Many different types of businesses and organizations are needed to create a healthy tourism economy. This is true even of businesses that don’t have an obvious tourism role.

Tourism is divided into sectors. In a broad definition of tourism, there are eight identified sectors: accommodation, adventure tourism and recreation, attractions, events and conferences, food and beverage, tourism services, transportation, and travel trade. However, we use sectors a little less generally in describing local tourism. So in our case, wildlife watching, sport fishing, cruise ships, and so on, are seen to be sectors in addition to the broader industry sectors of museums / attractions, accommodation, or transportation.

In the local market these are often very distinct from one another in their needs, opportunities and challenges. While certain challenges such as changes to transportation systems might impact the whole local industry, there are very specific challenges facing individual segments of our market on any given tourism season.

More than anything, from the perspective of Tourism Prince Rupert, each of the sectors of our local industry have different audiences. Since it is our role to market Prince Rupert to all visitors, we have to split our limited resources in an attempt to benefit all sectors.

Of course there is much overlap. For example, the vast majority of our cruise visitors are from the U.S. The most effective way that we have of reaching that huge market, with a small budget preventing broad advertising campaigns, is by seeking coverage in American media. It is within our means to work to attract travel writers, and a single feature in a large magazine, when compared to the cost of buying a comparable amount of advertising, can bring returns worth almost as much as our entire annual budget. And of course stories about Prince Rupert in the American media, available and popular throughout the western world, are of benefit to all sectors.

Of course the landscape is shifting now. Social media is a powerful new force that allows us to target even more specifically, for very little investment. For example, we traditionally reached our sport fishing audience, primarily based in northern BC and Alberta, through fishing magazines, and occasionally through local newspapers in communities identified by local operators as strong markets. Now, with the explosion of  social media, we are reaching a point where we can blend this with traditional advertising and more economically reach into specific markets.

Sometimes TPR feels pressure from businesses operating primarily in one or another of the sectors to market to their audiences to the exclusion of others, but of course this would be counter-productive to the needs of the community. Our duty, in marketing the community, is to always remember the big picture. Our role is to bring visitors to the community, and we have to make sure that those visitors benefit all sectors.

The truth is that in a town like Prince Rupert, we’re all in the tourism industry. Tourism is one of the things that sustains the businesses we rely upon in Prince Rupert – even non-traditional tourism businesses, furniture stores, bakeries and what-have-you, are sustained in part by tourism revenue circulating in the community. No single sector within the tourism industry can be singled out – we must keep it all healthy, and growing, for the long-term health of the community.

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