Last week I wrote about the value of tourism in Prince Rupert.
This week I’d like to take a closer look specifically at sport fishing. Again, we had an opportunity in 2007 to take advantage of an in-depth visitor study conducted by the highly respected Tourism BC research department, all at no cost to the community. Applying provincial statistics is always valuable, but this rare opportunity allowed us a very clear understanding of tourism in Prince Rupert.
According to the 2007 Prince Rupert Visitor Study, during June, July and August of 2007, about 189,000 visitors to Prince Rupert contributed over $52 million to our economy. Of the many different types of visitors who come to Prince Rupert, anglers are by far the most valuable. Just 8 per cent of those 189,000 visitors, about 15,000, were here for fishing, but they contributed 31 per cent of the total expenditure, or just over $16 million. Estimates of annual tourism revenue here run as high as $200 million.
It is important to realize that at the beginning of the June – August 2007 study period our sport fishing industry was slaughtered: a mudslide cut off Highway 16 on May 28, followed by flooding. The highway reopened on June 10, but, in the tire-driven world of sport fishing, uncertainty surrounding the link had already caused cancellations far beyond that. It was a costly disaster. So we assume that the totals could have been higher than they were during those three months, but the percentages were certainly sound.
Guided anglers made up 69 per cent of all visiting anglers, about 11,000 guided versus 4,000 independent. About 33 per cent of anglers are from British Columbia, 52 per cent from other points in Canada, primarily Alberta, 7 per cent from the US, and 3 per cent from international markets. Anglers offer very high repeat visitation, and drive higher than normal hotel nights.
Guided anglers tend to come in parties of 3 or 4, and spend about three days fishing and four days in the community, while independents come in smaller parties (2.67) and tend to spend 4 days fishing and 6 days in the community. Both guided and independent spend roughly $2,400 – $2,800 per party per day throughout Prince Rupert.
Bear in mind that these are primarily local operators and guides, who live and raise families in Prince Rupert, so this is money that stays in Prince Rupert.
We need to be conscious of external threats to this important source of revenue to the community. As Owen Bird of the Sport Fishing Institute of BC points out, “The threat of an in-season closure and uncertainty of access for the sector has impacts on the season at hand but more significantly on future seasons and public perception. In 2011 the halibut season closed September 5th, the results of that closure were felt by all sport related and small coastal community business in cancelled trips also in bookings for 2012. Many visitors are either now trying to book earlier in the season or simply choosing a different activity or location to have a vacation. Certainty is an essential ingredient for encouraging travel plans and promotion of trips. It is understandable that customers and vacationers alike would be interested to set their sights on certain opportunity rather than best guess or likely expectations.”
We need to be concerned about the sustainability of the fishery as well as the sport fishing experience. We need to help our local sport fishing operators build a successful business that will sustain them over the coming years. They bring a tremendous benefit to our tourism