The Northern Woods and Water Highway Association is hoping to extend the highway down through Quesnel to connect Dawson Creek to Vancouver and connect the northern highway to Highway 1.
Dale Harrison, president of the Northern Woods and Water Highway Association, was in Quesnel Wednesday (July 24) hoping to get the community on board.
The Northern Woods and Water Highway currently goes from Winnipeg, Man., through northern Saskatchewan and northern Alberta to Dawson Creek, B.C., and the association would like to extend the highway down through Mackenzie, Prince George and Quesnel down to Lillooet, Whistler and Vancouver, then to Hope and Cache Creek, where it could connect with the Trans-Canada Highway.
“The primary reason is to make connection with the Lower Mainland and the population down in southern B.C. and all the way along the route, but it’s also the whole idea of the circle tours — being able to connect up with the travellers who are already travelling in western Canada from the East who are travelling on the Yellowhead and the Trans-Canada, to introduce them to a different route,” said Harrison. “If they came across on the Trans-Canada, they’ve already seen that scenery, so it’s giving them a different look at Canada. And along with that, the more people we can encourage to travel our highways and the communities that are on the route, the more money that gets deposited — and that’s really the reason we do tourism, to get outside money into the communities.”
Harrison says their primary market is the “gentle explorers” who take several months to travel along the highway and stop and spend time in the communities through which they pass.
“They’ve got time,” he said. “In localized tourism, we are seeing people are dashing away for a weekend whenever they can get free, but for our type of travel, it’s the people who are interested in exploring and spending time on the road.
“The other thing about those types of travellers is for the local campgrounds, local campgrounds get hit for weekends … these people travel every day of the week, and so they spread out the traffic, as you will, and also the economic spending. So your gas stations may not be as busy as on a long weekend, but they’ll have them Monday to Thursday coming through.”
Harrison says right now, one of their primary goals is to get B.C. communities on boards they can move forward with signs extending the Northern Woods and Water Highway.
“Our focus for B.C. is getting the communities on board and helping them understand there are more tourism dollars out there for a pretty reasonable cost,” he said. “I’m locally trying to help people understand Quesnel has a bunch of sites and things to see, but is there any thought on how people get to Quesnel?”
Harrison says that according to tourism statistics, the average tourist traveller will spend more than $150 a day on such things as gas, oil, accommodation, entertainment, recreation and clothing.
One of the key points he wants to get across is how being part of the Northern Woods and Water Highway encourages tourism and benefits the local economy.
“Right now, most municipalities consider tourism marketing an expense — really, it’s an investment,” he said.