Visitor season on the North Coast is now underway

The tourism season is upon us. This week brings the first cruise ship of the season, the 2240-passenger Norwegian Pearl. Independent visitor traffic is already well under way, and here at Tourism Prince Rupert we have our first travel writer visit of the season.

The tourism season is upon us. This week brings the first cruise ship of the season, the 2240-passenger Norwegian Pearl. Independent visitor traffic is already well under way, and here at Tourism Prince Rupert we have our first travel writer visit of the season.

Visitors never really stop coming to Prince Rupert, of course. A trickle of visitors pass through even during the winter months. But for us the winter is a time for preparing materials that influence travel in the following years.

This winter, as I mentioned in this column last week, one of our biggest projects was the launch of a completely redesigned website at www.VisitPrinceRupert.com, and a social media strategy built partly through Facebook, at “Visit Prince Rupert,” and Twitter, at @VisitRupert. Again, these will become more and more effective as more Prince Rupert content becomes available on social media networks. Please let us know if you’re generating Prince Rupert content on any social media sites.

Of course there are countless other things that occupy our time during the off-season. There are annual rounds of grant writing and fundraising, updating all of our marketing materials, working with travel writers and tour operators, and so on. This winter there was also the widespread concern that cruise ship traffic will be drastically reduced in 2012. We joined with the Museum of Northern BC over the winter in proposing ways to enhance the cruise visitor experience, and we’d like to see that taken farther. And although our function lies in external marketing to bring visitors to Prince Rupert, and not in business development, Tourism Prince Rupert does play a small role in cruise ship visits. This is primarily through the Cruise Ship Ambassador Program.

We’ve been operating the Ambassador Program for 11 years. A dedicated group of volunteers muster for each cruise ship, distributing maps and providing information. It remains a very innovative program, imitated in other places, and the hospitality of our Ambassadors is frequently mentioned on cruise passenger surveys as one of the most memorable things about their stay here. However, we think that the Ambassador Program can be made even better, and to do it we’ve partnered with Community Futures. To learn more, contact Treena Decker at 250-622-2332.

In fact, over the winter Community Futures has taken a big role in business development for cruise as part of a cruise task force called together by the Port Authority. Community Futures has become involved in, among other things, a busking program, and a booklet about Prince Rupert to be distributed on board the ships. We joined them in presenting the social media workshop that I mentioned last week. The City has taken on other cruise development initiatives such as partnering on the busking program, or working with Salmonberry Trading Company on the market across from Atlin Terminal.

Meanwhile, as I mentioned, this week we also see our first travel writer of the summer season. San Jose-based Gary Singh is a columnist and former staff writer at Metro newspaper, and a freelancer for a variety of magazines ranging from Islands to Sunset. Gary is visiting at the invitation of Tourism Prince Rupert and the Northern BC Tourism Association.

We need to do the mental shift that goes with the passing seasons here at TPR. In the winter we’re focused on the marketing cycle, and on being as prepared as we can possibly be. In summer we’re more focused on building upon that winter work by presenting Prince Rupert in the best possible light to visiting travel writers and tour operators. Gary Singh brings a unique perspective to each experience he encounters, so showing him around town, on a visit that includes cruise ship day, should be just the right thing to help us make that mental shift.