Bobbi Carpino and her family bought Salmon Valley Campground, just outside of Prince George, in November 2017. Her first season, 2018, saw a wildfire crisis in northern BC. 2019 was one of the coldest rainiest summers on record. That was a tough start.
2020 brought COVID-19. With it came a massive reduction in revenues, a shortened operating season (where the summer season is already short), capacity reduction to accommodate social distancing, and, most challenging of all, a loss of American and international tourists travelling up the Alaska Highway.
“Trust me, I had tears. We didn’t know if we were going to open…you start to wonder like – did I do the right thing,” said Bobbi.
Photo: 1 Bobbi and her family at Salmon Valley Campground
As soon as it became available in late April, Bobbi enrolled in the Northern BC Tourism Resiliency Program.
“It was very tailored to our business. It can be so overwhelming when you start to look at all the programs out there and I think that a lot of them are not applicable, so being able to see that report, even just to have a voice and to be heard… It was really wonderful,” she said.
The mandatory “reset” imposed by COVID 19, and all the ensuing conversations and guidance, have pushed Bobbi and her family to really hone in on their business model and priorities. As a result, they are choosing to move away from being an events venue and more toward a family-oriented resort and attraction, with a newfound emphasis on safety.
The business has now introduced contact-less check in and a reservation-only system to avoid transient campers and day-users.
Photo: 2 Salmon Valley Campground
Meanwhile on Haida Gwaii, April Dutheil, owner of Crystal Cabin -a second-generation family business that curates a selection of crystals, gemstone jewellery, and Haida art – is feeling the severity of an indefinite halt in the island’s visitor economy. With only 4,500 residents on island, the business caters heavily to tourists and is currently only offering online ordering.
Photo: 3 New Crystal Cabin mural celebrates Haida Art and Crystals
April registered for the Northern BC Tourism Resiliency Program in early May to receive resources and support for pivoting her business to markets beyond drop-in visitors. After a one-on-one support meeting with a Northern BC TRP Program Advisor and a consultation with a Program Expert in Digital Marketing, April is looking at enhancing her digital presence and expanding her market beyond Haida Gwaii.
“I had a great call with the Program Expert. It was so invaluable speaking with him” she said. “He was able to provide me with ideas, strategize, answer questions. It gets me working towards pivots.”
The Tourism Resiliency Program provides tourism businesses with one-on-one support to navigate the relief and recovery measures from COVID-19. Program Advisors are matched with businesses to provide ongoing personalized support developing resiliency in our industry.
Bobbi’s words resonate with many business owners across the region when she says “Tourism businesses in Northern BC are really quiet and I think we need to get loud. We just need to ask for help. Its hard as an entrepreneur. It feels really lonely at times. We have to be able to use our voices to talk about what’s happening and the additional challenges we are faced with.”