Prince Rupert has landed the prize catch from a $450,000 pot of tourism marketing dollars offered to Northern communities after the ferry sank in March.
A non-invitational fishing derby with a top prize of $100,000 will be held in Prince Rupert this summer, and some tourism operators on the islands are incensed.
The weigh-in point for the derby, which offers almost $200,000 in prizes over a month long period from August 15 to September 15, will be in Prince Rupert, but Urs Thomas of the Golden Spruce Motel in Port Clements has mounted a campaign to have the derby extended to other communities.
“Why didn’t the committee expand the fishing derby as a Northern Derby and be inclusive and have the derby in Kitimat, Terrace, the Charlottes etc. These are all great fishing destinations and deserve their share of the $450,000!” Mr. Thomas wrote in a letter to two of the key committee members, including Bruce Wishart, the executive director of Tourism Prince Rupert.
Mr. Thomas was later told, by someone at Northern BC Tourism Association who is on the committee, it is not possible to expand the derby, because of insurance and the need to have approved scales.
The decision on how to allocate the $450,000 was made by the Northern Fund Management Committee, a consensus-based group made up of five representatives from across the north.
Andrew Merilees, president of the Haida Gwaii Tourism Association is the local representative.
The committee also announced several other initiatives. One is to hire two extra people to work in the Prince George Visitor Information Centre to promote Highway 16 attractions.
The committee also launched the Northern BC Summer Signature Series, a new promotional brand to inspire visitors to attend northern music, art, theatre, agriculture, car, rodeo and other community celebrations.
As well, a direct marketing campaign for the Queen Charlotte Islands will be aimed at Southeast Alaska tourists, said to be a key growth market for the islands.
The committee will design and print 100,000 brochures that will be mail dropped and inserted in local papers in Alaska.
Dutes Dutheil of Crystal Cabin in Tlell says none of the HGTA members, nor Chamber of Commerce members were consulted about these initiatives and tourism operators on the islands were not even informed any decision had been made.
“The only way we found out was in the newspaper (an off-island source). No emails came from the island representative,” he says.
“We feel it is the wrong decision.”
Mr. Dutheil says an ad-hoc tourism marketing committee was struck and suggestions were made to the Northern Fund Management Committee. These include focussing on a September all-island event, sending island ambassadors on a Highway 16 road show, placing newspaper ads in Alberta and Okanagan newspapers and lobbying BC Ferries for a fall seat sale and access to more space.
Mr. Dutheil says the ad-hoc committee didn’t hear back from Mr. Merilees about these recommendations, and saw no evidence they had been passed along to the others deciding on how to spend $450,000 in public funding.
He can’t see how the derby will benefit other communities in the north
“Prince Rupert has gotten what they wanted and taken advantage of the deal,” he says.
Mr. Merilees spoke to Queen Charlotte council on July 17 and explained how the decision was made.
He said the money was intended to benefit the entire region, and the large prize for the derby will draw people down the entire Highway 16 corridor.
The committee appreciated that the derby wasn’t helping the islands, and so they decided on the brochure, which would benefit the islands next year as well.
As for extending the derby to the islands, he said the committee decided to keep the impact on fish stocks confined to one area. He also said calibrating scales across regions would be very difficult.
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