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Tourism takes it on the chin in 2020/2021 but won’t go down: Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism

With most events like the Canada Day celebrations in Nelson cancelled, the COVID-19 stranglehold on tourism continued its stifling ways into 2021. — The Nelson Daily photo

Devastating.

That’s the word that summarizes the last year in the tourism sector in the region, according to Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism (NKLT) executive director Dianne Ducs.

COVID-19 ran rampant through the human population throughout much of 2020, and with it was squelched a good portion of the region’s economy in the tourism sector, she explained to city council in an annual update on tourism.

That stranglehold on tourism continued its stifling ways into 2021 and the region — like the majority of the country — is still in the throes of a lockdown, she said.

Restaurants that were closed as COVID-19 progressed gradually re-opened and then were closed again, along with further restrictions placed on shopping and travel, both local and abroad.

That meant most businesses that relied upon tourism — which many do in Nelson and the surrounding area — saw their market shrink dramatically, and some were forced to close their doors, said Ducs.

“It’s devastating but we are doing okay, considering everything,” she said. “2020 into 2021 has been and remains a challenging time for tourism and hospitality related businesses and groups.”

Last year and this year have been all over the map, with new records in travel numbers to the area along with record lows, with each month varying depending on travel restrictions imposed at the time, said Ducs.

“So it’s been very atypical as you are all aware of,” she told council.

“But the priority throughout COVID-19 has been to keep the region front of mind to locals and to visitors. We don’t want to go black and dark, as they say, we still want to be out there.”

Although there has been widespread optimism and eagerness to see a conclusion of pandemic related restrictions with the continued rollout of vaccine development, the opposite has recently occurred as variants have flared up across the globe, and most recently in British Columbia, Ducs said.

“This has resulted in the reintroduction of restrictions such as a ban on indoor dining, along with new restrictions, such as regional travel restrictions,” she said.

As a result, NKLT has gathered pandemic resource links and compiled them on its website while also providing residents with “positive messaging,” regular updates and a list of local businesses that remain open to date.

It is also creating an artist database, a comprehensive list of all of the artists from dance, and theatre to music, clay and woodworking and beyond.

“Hopefully we will have that list for future use when we reach out and have opportunities for funding,” she said.

“We’ve done an amazing job, all of us, and keeping our community vibrant and alive and pretty darn healthy considering the circumstances that are going on through this pandemic.”

The word on the street

The word on the street is pessimism.

The provincial view on travel restrictions lifting is quite pessimistic, Ducs explained, while the NKLT board took an ultra-pessimistic view.

“We are not a very pessimistic board, but we were very hesitant to assume that travel was going to even be alive in July,” she explained.

“It might happen if the vaccines continue to roll out and the variant changes, but we went with the ultra-pessimistic anticipation of the movement of travel.

“No one really knows what is going to happen, it just allows us to budget and it allows us to consider where we are going to spend our money at what time of year.”

It’s a heartbreaking situation, said Coun. Jesse Woodward, and is challenging at the same time. He said there were numerous silver linings throughout the sectors, such as the development of the artist directory.

“You are going to have built a bunch of really amazing assets that you can use when all of this is over,” he said.

What’s next

The NKLT continues to develop its website and an audio mobile app, allowing people to travel around the area and learn about its history, as well as what is going on in the region.

Through things such as the app, Ducs said NKLT will endeavour to continue to keep regional tourism front of mind for people.

“Really, that is the most important thing so that people know that we are here so when they can travel they will come to this area,” she sad.

Behind the destination

Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism (NKLT) is a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) incorporated in 2009 under the BC Societies Act.

It is a non-profit, self-sustaining marketing organization representing and advancing the interests of the tourism-related industry sector. NKLT’s mission is to market the region on behalf and in cooperation with its stakeholders.

The organization spans Nelson, Balfour, Ainsworth, Kaslo, Meadow Creek along with cat and heli-ski operators in the region.

Source: Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism