Bring on the flowers and flags, says tourism expert

  • Mar. 7, 2005 9:00 a.m.

Towns which want to attract more tourists should be planting as many flowers and flying as many flags as they can.
That’s the advice of a Northwest Community College tourism instructor, who visited the islands last week and gave a one-day seminar in Queen Charlotte Saturday.
“Flags and flowers,” Bob Lipsett said. “I have never, ever been to a tourist venue where I heard it said, I am not coming back because there were too many flags and flowers.”
Big, clear signs don’t hurt either, Mr. Lipsett said. Fresh off the ferry Friday morning, he made a quick tour of Queen Charlotte, and didn’t see enough of them.
“Signage here is a challenge,” he said. “I’m just a tourist, I just arrived here, I don’t know where everybody is.”
Despite the lack of signs, flowers and flags, Mr. Lipsett predicts a rosy future for tourism on the Charlottes. There is opportunity for more bed and breakfast facilities and more niche tours, he said.
To give an example from Prince Rupert, a couple of people who took his tourism course are now putting on tours geared at giving visitors the chance to view eagles, Mr. Lipsett said.
“Eagles don’t live in big cities,” he said. Islanders might take much of the landscape for granted, but visitors find the forests and beaches a welcome contrast to their grey office cubicles.
“Locals don’t see it the way out-of-towners do,” he said. “There’s no traffic jams here, no big box malls.”
The outspoken instructor offered a couple of other observations about tourism on Haida Gwaii. The new museum and heritage centre in Skidegate is going to be “just absolutely fabulous, it’s going to be a big draw.” Gwaii Haanas, on the other hand, attracts relatively few visitors (and the number is not going up) for the amount of money that goes into it.
“That’s pretty expensive tourism,” Mr. Lipsett said. “That is not the most prudent use of taxpayers’ dollars.”
Queen Charlotte is the “funkiest town” on the islands, he said, while Sandspit has a lot of potential: “Sandspit could become the home of eco-tourism.”
NWCC is offering a one-year program in entrepreneurial tourism in Prince Rupert, Mr. Lipsett said, and starting this fall courses will be available on-line. The program teaches people how to start their own business, and all the skills to keep it going.
Mr. Lipsett is also willing to travel to communities which want him to come and help out with tourism opportunities. He’s already been doing lots in the Nass Valley, and recently delivered a one-day seminar to 60 people in Terrace. He had 10 people already signed up for his one-day workshop in Queen Charlotte (held this past Saturday), and said he would be happy to come back, despite last Thursday’s rough and extra-long ferry ride.
“You don’t have to twist my arm very hard to get me over here,” he said.