Opened in 1976, the Haida Gwaii Museum at Ḵay Llnagaay on Haida Gwaii has continued to earn an international reputation for showcasing historic and contemporary Haida art and culture. The underlying theme running through all permanent exhibitions is the complex link between the land, the sea, human beings, and the Supernatural Beings that give Haida Gwaii its unique natural and cultural character.
Lynn Hughan is the manager at the museum’s Trading House Gift Shop which serves thousands of locals and tourists every year. In January, with a positive outlook for the year to come, Lynn began planning and buying inventory for the Trading House in anticipation of the booming tourism season she rightfully expected, typically running from April to September.
Of course, that soon changed. In March, the Council of Haida Nation declared a state of emergency and Haida Gwaii went into a necessary lockdown to keep all residents safe. These measures included a non-resident travel restriction, which remains in place, as the pandemic’s second wave surges. As a result, tourism has shut down and the museum has closed to the public until public health and safety conditions improve.
“Recognizing that the region was shutting down for tourism, I was really worried for the Trading House,” Lynn said. “I had made all of my purchase orders for the store and I was really worried that we were going to end up sitting on inventory.”
Confronting these challenges head on, Lynn pivoted her efforts to focus on bringing the Trading House online (as it previously had no online presence) and spent the summer getting the store set up in Shopify. Lynn will be the first to tell you that she is not a technology expert, but she knew that in order for the Trading House to thrive, to continue to support local artists, and to promote Haida heritage, it needed to move online. Then in August, the Trading House launched their first online store.
Around this time, Lynn decided to reach out to the Tourism Resiliency Program for additional support. The next day she was on the phone with a program advisor. Realizing that they needed a marketing strategy to promote their online store, Lynn was connected with a marketing expert who is helping create a detailed marketing plan.
The Northern BC Tourism Resiliency Program supported Lynn and the Trading House as they increased the sophistication of their marketing, implementing a search engine optimization and content marketing strategy that ensured the Trading House ranked well on google searches. The program is also helping the Trading House reach a wider audience.
“We want to continue to provide a world-class educational experience, promoting Haida culture and history,” said Lynn. “We all have so much gratitude for the Tourism Resiliency Program as well as Indigenous Tourism BC and Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada, who have all stepped up to support us during this challenging transition.” Adding, “we want to continue to educate and inspire visitors and support our artists and artisans. People love to come to Haida Gwaii, for its beauty, art and culture. They watch the orcas swimming off the coast, they get to know our people, it is a special place.”
The Trading House reopened their physical location in early September, but Lynn is committed to continuing to promote her community and their history through their new online store which will be a critical part of the business going forward.