This program was funded by a grant from the Community Radio Fund of Canada and the Government of Canada’s Local Journalism Initiative.
Local tourism had really taken a big hit when Mary Ruth Snyder, Executive Director of the Campbell River Chamber of Commerce and Dianne Hawkins, CEO of the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce agreed to visit each other’s cities and film the event. The pair did not stop there. They launched a social media campaign encouraging people to explore neighbouring communities and leave a visual record of their visits on social media using hashtags like #ExploreNextDoor, #MeetYourNeighbours, and #ExploreBC.
“Both Dianne and I have heard nothing but positive feedback from everyone who has reached out to us … People are making comments on Facebook, YouTube or LinkedIn, saying what a fabulous promotion … The response has been really astounding,” said Snyder.
She and Hawkins were not alone.
British Columbia was reopening.
On July 16th, the City of Campbell River reported “people are beginning to spend time in Campbell River’s most popular locations for keeping cool. In particular, McIvor Lake and the Splash Park are becoming increasingly crowded.”
By the time the video Explore Next Door was released, on August 18th, the region was in the midst of an uptake in the number of local tourists. Little of this reached sectors more dependent on international tourism, like marine adventure tourism, but the Campbell River’s hotel occupancy rate jumped to 70% – which was just about all they could maintain while maintaining COVID protocols.
The influx of visitors reached more remote locations like Cortes Island, where there often appeared to be more tourists than local residents in stores, food outlets and on the beaches. When asked, they invariably mentioned coming from neighbouring communities, other parts of Vancouver Island or the Lower Mainland.
Snyder visited Cortes for five days, a couple of years ago, and says, “I could easily come to Cortes Island for a day and lose myself in the immense beauty of Cortes Island’s hiking and trails …”
Use #Explore Next Door
Now the tide of local tourists is ebbing but Mary Ruth Snyder encourages people to continue exploring the communities around them:
“So, we’re hoping that everybody will adopt those hashtags and use them encouraging people to explore their next door neighbour. We’re also going to be the same with Gold River and possibly Sayward because there is just so much to do here on Vancouver Island. We do not need to go to far away places. We can really encourage people to travel 45 minutes up the road, or ten minutes on the ferry to Quadra, or another 45 minutes to Cortes. They have the whole day to spend with family and friends. They’ll feel like they’ve been a week and they’ve only been gone a day, but they helped to contribute to the local economy in the same region where you are.”
She added, “This week-end is Labour Day. So what are we going to do? Well, explore next door!”
Top photo credit: Elk Falls in Campbell River – screenshot from the video Explore Next Door