A Calgary-based tourist company to offer day trips to Prince Rupert with a tour of the port in 2018. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

A Calgary-based tourist company to offer day trips to Prince Rupert with a tour of the port in 2018. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

North Coast day tours to provide extra flights to residents this June

A glimpse at the highs and lows of the 2018 Prince Rupert tourism season

Daily operations at the port may seem ordinary to folks in Prince Rupert, but tourists are coming to the North Coast this summer are eager to see more than grizzly bears and humpback whales.

Calgary-based Classic Canadian Tours has been operating one-day Khutzeymateen tours for Albertans for the past eight years, but peaked interest in exploring the Pacific northwest port city has led to a new tour package.

“We believe there’s a strong community of interest between Alberta and Prince Rupert,” said Bill Lamberton, president of Classic Canadian Tours.

This year, his company has chartered a 136-seat airplane for three day tours in June. The city’s manager of transportation and economic development, Paul Vendittelli, will take part in the harbour tour. While Alberta and B.C. duke it out over pipeline disputes and trade wars, Lamberton said his company targets Prince Rupert as “a friendly port of call.”

But the strategy to bring Albertan tourists in for a day trip is two-fold: the chartered jet for tourists has approximately 40 empty seats — in each direction — that Lamberton said he is selling to Rupert residents.

The seats will also be offered to Alberta-based companies, such as AltaGas and Pembina, that may want to send employees to get familiarized with the area they will be working in.

Flights will go from Calgary or Edmonton to Prince Rupert on June 3, 16 and 30. One way tickets will cost $219.50 plus $10.98 for GST, and same-day return fares are $419 plus $10.95 for GST. For more information call 1-866-460-1415 or visit the company’s website.

WATCH MORE: Kayaking down the Skeena during the eulachon run

Industry tourism in northern B.C.

People come to the north for skiing, fishing and bus tours but niche markets in adventure sport tourism and industrial tourism are emerging.

“Everyone has different interests, history or make up of a particular area or region or how the economy functions,” said Clint Fraser, the CEO of Northern BC Tourism. “Some of these industries are a big part of our culture, our history, at the end of the day they’re trying to capitalize on telling these stories to tourists.”

In northeastern B.C., Hudson’s Hope offers tours of the WAC Bennett Dam where tourists can take in the province’s largest reservoir. In the Peace River region, visitors can hike to Bear Mountain to see the 34-turbine wind farm. Prince Rupert has the Port Interpretive Centre, which has combined with visitors services.

“When visitors stop by, they can learn about the culture and history and the port, which is a big economic driver, not only for Prince Rupert but for the northern B.C. economy,” Fraser said.

Industry tourism isn’t something Tourism Prince Rupert has been actively promoting, said chair of the board, Scott Farwell.

“I think in general, the majority of folks are here for one of two things, they’re either here for a particular niche, say if it’s whale watching, salmon fishing, that kind of a thing, or the people are coming to Rupert as part of a larger circle tour, so they start in Vancouver, work their way up to Vancouver Island through BC Ferries and through the north. Prince Rupert would be a two-day stay of that overall tour,” he said.

However, Tourism Prince Rupert welcomes tourists any which way they want to explore the area.

READ MORE: Google Trekker begins its voyage in the Khutzeymateen

Sport fishing

Before the tourism season kicked off, Fisheries and Oceans warned anglers that chinook and sockeye may be off limits. The news hit the recreational sports fishing businesses particularly hard.

Farwell said it’s hard to replace the high ticket tourism item.

“There’s a real loss there for charter operators, hotels, fish processing, gasoline, all that kind of stuff. It’s very challenging to replace, however as we continue to evolve I think from a community standpoint we continue to add new product to our agenda every year,” he said.

Just as the port has been diversifying its product, the tourism industry isn’t focused on just fishing. Other tourism products offered are grizzly bear or whale watching tours, cultural tours of the North Pacific Cannery and kayaking or canoing tours along the coast or on the lakes.

READ MORE: DFO contemplating sweeping North Coast salmon fishery closure

Drop in cruise passengers

The biggest cruise ship to call on Prince Rupert cancelled its scheduled visit on May 16, meaning the city will have 2,500 fewer passengers taking tours and spending money in shops.

Although the cruise industry has seen an upswing over the past couple years, in total, there are 6,900 fewer passengers in the 2018 season.

For those who do visit, they will benefit from the two beautification projects by the Port of Prince Rupert. By the first cruise ship’s arrival on May 29, the port expects the Atlin Promenade project to be complete. The project is intended to improve the look and flow of pedestrian traffic from Northland Cruise Terminal to Cow Bay District.

Positive forecast for 2018

Despite possible restrictions on recreational fishing opportunities, Fraser projects another strong summer season.

“We had almost record levels of passengers on BC ferries from Port Hardy to Haida Gwaii last year. I think we’ll see similar demand this year,” he said, citing the low Canadian dollar compared to the U.S. dollar will be part of the draw.

 

shannon.lough@thenorthernview.com 

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Killer whales in the Khutzeymateen Inlet. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Killer whales in the Khutzeymateen Inlet. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

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