The Visitor Centre recently reported 2017 tourist numbers at a North Cariboo Joint Planning Committee meeting, and – as you might have guessed – numbers were down in Quesnel and the Cariboo last summer, as towns were evacuated and smoke filled the air.
This, of course, had a huge impact on Quesnel’s businesses, and recovery efforts are still in play.
The City, Cariboo Regional District and the Chamber of Commerce, among others, are doing their utmost to draw visitors back to the Cariboo this summer. As residents, we know the many great things available to visitors of Quesnel – access to some of the best camping, hiking, fishing and swimming spots, Billy Barker Days and other events, and friendly folks. But those from further afield may need to be educated as to our region’s charms, and the fact that post-wildfires, we are still here and ready to welcome tourists. To that end, Visitor Centre staff have been attending trade shows and the like to advertise our city and its surrounding area.
While we know this is a great place to live and visit, some other elements are going to make tourism a challenge in summer 2018. The Reid Street Revitalization project is likely to have an impact on whether travelling motorists stop for a while on their way north or south; while Highway 97 currently still goes right through town, visitors may see the construction and decide to continue on their journey, rather that stop.
It’s worrying for our city’s businesses, but local signage will hopefully mitigate the impact of the construction somewhat, as well as the fact that the project is being completed in phases, so the entire area won’t be affected all at once.
Quesnel’s residents will need to do their best to shop locally, to shore up these businesses for another summer – especially if wildfires become a factor once again.
One thing we can count on (barring fires, of course) is an influx of tourists for our annual festival, Billy Barker Days. With the Gold Dust Mall relocated from Reid Street to the plaza area between the curling rink and West Fraser Centre, most activities will be taking place in and around LeBourdais Park, and the festival will hopefully have a knock-on effect, with tourists taking time to patronize our local eating and retail establishments as well as the vendors in the park.
Fans of our festival will hopefully flock to Quesnel this summer, having missed the festivities last year.
Despite the disruptions, we hope residents will stay in town and invite friends and family this summer. We may not be able to blow 2017’s tourism numbers out of the water, but at least we can try to get things back on track.
Quesnel Cariboo Observer