Balancing Prince Rupert’s approach to the tourism industry

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

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 museum / accommodation, or transportation.

In the local market these are often very distinct from one another in their needs, opportunities and challenges. For example, without getting into too much detail, there are very different challenges facing individual segments of our market this season. In cruise we need to develop our offering if we hope to continue to attract ships. Sport fishing may again be impacted by halibut allocation. Circle tours that provide the bulk of our overnight leisure market face the threat of ridiculous fares on BC Ferries and the lingering threat of ships being withdrawn, and so on.

More than anything, from the perspective of Tourism Prince Rupert, each of the sectors of our local industry have very 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 in 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 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 see the big picture. A non-traditional tourism business such as a dry cleaner sees benefit from tourism traffic on BC Ferries. Likewise our cruise capacity is greatly enhanced by, say, ensuring that our sport fishing operators remain strong in their traditional markets and have the capacity to offer excursions for cruise ship passengers.

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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