Tourism is a growing industry in Pinawa. The pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions in the Summer of 2020 brought many thousands of new visitors to our town. Although we as a town have been encouraging tourism growth as a way to create jobs, it was clear that we were unprepared for the exponential increase in visitors, especially at the Pinawa Channel. We need a robust plan to manage the influx of tourists, decrease the negative friction between visitors and residents, and make sure that the tourism industry has a direct financial benefit to the citizens of Pinawa.
Tourism is an important and viable industry for Pinawa. Between the Channel float operators, golf course, motel, and the numerous summer students employed by the town, it creates a lot of jobs! But let me be perfectly clear, we do not want our natural areas to become a Mardi Gras scene and be left with nothing at the end of the season but a big mess and a headache.
When tourism gets out of control, it’s not just locals who suffer, it decreases even the satisfaction of the tourists! I know as citizens we’re not quite as concerned about that, but we should be. Think about the people coming to visit. Many of them are nature lovers who want to visit a pretty town, get on the water, see some animals and have a good time. However, if things get out of control and those tourists see a party zone and a big mess, they might not come back, but the yahoos will return again and again. On the flip side, when the tourist scene is clean and peaceful, the visitors who want to party it up a bit will tend to take it down a notch. When in Rome, as the saying goes. Think about the tourist scene in a place like Cancun vs Tofino.
There were problems last year. But let’s not devolve into bullying, negativity, and hostility towards tourists and outfitters. They are our guests and Pinawanians are friendly and welcoming people. Let’s make sure to give people a smile and a wave when we meet them at the beach, the Ironwood Trail, the Golf Course, or on the Channel.
As councillor I will work towards a constructive and comprehensive tourism plan, that aims to mitigate the negatives, and maximises the positives (ie. Money!) My recommendations include:
- Installing larger, animal-proof garbage and recycling bins in all public areas in sufficient number.
- Improving signage, parking, and pathways to encourage visitors to check out other areas of town, reducing excessive concentration in some areas, and promoting patronage to other businesses in town.
- The introduction of a Eco-Tourism Operators License to ensure that operators are held to certain standards of environmental stewardship and commercial practice.
- The introduction of a Eco-Improvement Surcharge, a small fee that will be tacked onto the price of tickets charged by operators directly to the consumers (appearing as a seperate line item on the receipt). This new revenue stream will ensure that taxpayers are benefiting directly from the tourist industry, and could be reinvested in amenities for everyone, such as improvements to public recreation facilities.
An integral part of my plan is the devolopment of an Eco-Tourism Zone to support businesses that rely on facilitating access to Pinawa’s natural areas and waterways.
- Enhance and modify Pinawa’s secondary plan to incorporate an Eco-Tourism Zone centred around (but not limited to) the end of the highway which is to become part of the town in the next year.
- Develop the site near the diversion dam as an Commercial staging area for operators. This area will eventually be home to a multi-use building with Garage doors so operators can rent a space to house their supplies, such as tubes and kayaks, on site. This will reduce traffic in town and save time and effort for the companies, increasing productivity.
- The staging area would include some small commercial spaces which would function as a check in area for guests to sign their rental agreements and get set up.
- The building would include bathrooms to increase sanitation and the comfort of workers and users.
- Parking would be reorganized to be more efficient and ensure safety and that the golf course paths are not blocked by cars.
- The installation of a dock for launching of canoes, paddleboats, kayaks, and other small vessels.
I’ve worked in customer service since I was 14, and have spent the last decade working aboard one of the world’s premier passenger trains. Pinawa is at the beginning of a tourism boom. This is our chance to define what sort of tourist town we want to be. We should be inspired by green tourism pioneers such as Costa Rica, and my plan will help get us there. When we hang out on the trail or at the beach and meet some visitors enjoying the same activities we love, remember that they are just people who haven’t figured out a way to live here, YET.
If a visitor were to ask you what to do in Pinawa, what would be your best suggestion?