Originally posted July 14, 2015 written by Murray Atherton
TOURISM on Bowen!
TOURISM…Some think it is a bad word on our island. A concept that only creates lineups on the ferry, congestion on the trails and noise from the Vacation Rentals down the street.
TOURISTS are those day-trippers who come from the mainland or from afar. Some come for a day to experience our trails. fresh air and friendliness… others will stay in one of our many B&B’s or Vacation Rentals for a week or a weekend.
VISITORS are the friends and relatives you have visiting you from near and far throughout the year. When you invite your friends for a day, weekend or extended stay, they are in fact, part of TOURISM.
Both are the same… wonderful economic generators on our amazing island. I remember one merchant at Artisan Square saying many years ago, “if it wasn’t for the tourists and the Hood Pointers I’d have been out of business years ago”.
Bowen is a small island, population-wise. 3,500 (some say 3,700) is not sustainable a marketplace for most entrepreneurs. I remember trying to convince financial institutions to open on Bowen and hearing the same thing over and over again…. “come and see us when you’ve got 5,000 full time residents”. Thankfully, our population does grow to that magic number in the summer months and with the tourists and visitors spending their disposable dollars our small business owners are able to eke out a living. Tourism numbers say that the average day-tripper will spend about $62 per trip. An overnight guest will account for over $115 per person expenditure (sure, YOU might be the one spending the money on their meals etc) but it all goes into the island’s economy. That money circulates as wages, rent, supplies, money for gas, food and luxuries. It is spent with our carpenters, labourers, housekeepers and our local municipality.
With the demise of the Chamber of Commerce (much to my chagrin as I spent 7 years as President up to 2009) the municipality convened an Economic Development Advisory Committee almost 3 years ago, to explore the need for a true Economic Development Committee of Council. Over that first year, we identified Tourism as one of the primary economic generators on the island.
A small group of islanders gathered together and formed a separate committee and named it Tourism Bowen Island. In mid-June of 2014 we became public by hosting a pancake breakfast prior to the start of the Martin Marine Round Bowen Sailboat Race. We generated a whopping $740 bank account that allowed us to get a foothold into the provincial tourism marketing programs. Through the assistance of Vancouver Coast & Mountains Tourism Association, we were able to update our Tourism Plan and develop a Marketing Plan and Budget and at the end of the provincial government’s fiscal year we were able to receive over $7000 in matching dollars for our previous activities.
In this past 12 months, we have become a Registered Non-profit society. We have worked with Destination BC (the new name for TourismBC) in their new programs and given them input (that they actually listened to and put into action) on how to work with smaller communities. We have worked with the Steamship Days Society at two Outdoor Adventure Shows, joined Tourism Vancouver and have attended their Showcase in conjunction with the Clef d’Or (hotel concierge) and Info Centre staff throughout Metro Vancouver. We are working closely with the Vancouver North Shore Tourism Association and have taken out a membership with the West Vancouver Chamber of Commerce and have participated in two of their TASTE BOWEN initiatives and the Bowen Showcase this past spring.
We are co-oping with the Bowen Island Arts Council in the operation of the INFO Centre on Cardena (come on down to get your copy of the amazing TRAILS MAP developed by the Bowen Island Rotary Club) and with the First Credit Union in the building of the Dick VanAelst Memorial Welcome Centre on the Pier by the ferry ramp. We have worked with Rotary and many amazing people in the development & coordination of trail initiatives. An exciting initiative we have just started is the BOWEN AMBASSADOR program where volunteers are riding the ferry, chatting to those camera-toting tourists and visitors making sure they know where to go for information and how to get to their desired destination or find the activity they are anticipating.
With the receipt of the Provincial Marketing Funds, we were able to hire a contract Tourism Coordinator who is working diligently on a new Membership-driven web site and Community Calendar. We are very active on Social Media with the website, a very informative Facebook page, a Twitter account and are front and centre on Instagram. We are developing a Photo Library on the Tourism Vancouver and the HelloBC websites.
NOW all we need is the support of the community. At present, we have less than a dozen paid members. We are putting in countless volunteer hours on behalf of the island’s economy and can only continue with the support of a strong membership base. We do look for your support.
– Murray Atherton, Chair Tourism Bowen Island.