Tourism Wells Gray’s (TWG) Winter Waterfall Tours pilot project was deemed a success, with about 7,500 people visiting Wells Gray Park between December 2018 and March 2019.
Hotel revenue also saw a boost during the winter months, showing a slight increase in January, a 30 per cent increase in February, and March showing triple the amount of local hotel revenue than the year previous.
“I think we were able to get a bit of momentum in terms of raising awareness of the iconic waterfalls being frozen and (inviting people) to come visit them,” said Stephanie Molina, tourism manager for TWG.
The self-guided Winter Waterfall Tours pilot project gave nature enthusiasts a chance to view the various waterfalls in the park during the colder months, offering a unique viewing experience.
She added TWG also worked with CNN to get Wells Gray’s iconic winter waterfalls into a CNN Travel piece published on Feb. 28, called Here’s what winter can do to lighthouses and waterfalls, which also featured landmarks from Iceland, Paris, China as well as more familiar locations like Niagra Falls in its list of nine of the “world’s most striking winter wonders.”
Despite the success of the pilot project, it may not be able to go forward again in the upcoming season, though, because TWG doesn’t have regular funding to be used for the initiative.
“That was funded in part by some wildfire recovery funding we’d applied to particularly for that purpose, but Destination Canada and the Federal Government just announced they’d like to increase tourism in Canada by 25 per cent by the year 2025 and as part of that they have more than $50 million in grant stream to support tourism in the winter and shoulder seasons,” said Molina.
“And we intend to look at other opportunities to apply for grant funding to continue this initiative in the future or to see if there are any provincial government partners that would consider including this as a regular part of the maintenance in the park.”
Argo Road Maintenance maintained road and parking lot access throughout the winter as a community service donation, while Blackwell Park Operations and Clearwater Lake Tours cleared snow from the platform at Spahats Falls.
Molina said TWG can’t use its budget money for road and trail maintenance because those funds are specifically designated for marketing, so the organization has to look for other ways to accomplish the task, hence looking at grant applications, though grants tend to be one-off sources of funding and generally can’t be used for yearly, ongoing projects.
“We’d just like to continue with Spahats because we found the reception is strong for seeing our iconic waterfalls in the winter,” Molina said.
“That still remains a primary driver for tourism year round and I think we also have good opportunities in terms of scalability in the same way we’re able to attract more than 400,000 people during our busy season, I think we’d be able to get a larger number of people coming in the winter.”