tourist trappings

We’ve got the snapshots of visitors’ snapshots; what better way to showcase Vancouver’s incredible global appeal? British Columbians have never been shy about showing off the province to out-of-towners. We even go out of our way to host the world – obvious cases in point being Expo 86 and the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. While there can be no price on the pride we feel watching visitors see their first bear or wander in awe through centuries-old mountainside rainforest (as though each of us personally planted and nurtured such divine wilderness), when it comes to our economy, the tourist dollar has a very firm amount attached to it. Tourists add more than $13 billion to the provincial economy each year, and keep approximately 127,000 people employed in B.C. These visitors arrive from all over the globe, with the largest increase in tourists last year coming from Mexico (20 per cent more than 2010), Southeast Asia and China (up 15 per cent) and Brazil (up 12 per cent). They stay, on average, 4.9 nights (many with friends and relatives) and spend $421 each while here. More than 400,000 will go whale-watching and 32 per cent will visit a provincial park. Many will come face to face with grizzly bears named Grinder and Coola at the Grouse Mountain wildlife refuge. They tour historic sites and ride Whistler’s record-breaking PEAK 2 PEAK gondola. The more adventurous go heli-skiing (estimated to have a $100-million impact on B.C.’s tourism sector) while others see snow for the first time. Siwash Rock: Of the 8.3 million tourists who visited Metro Vancouver last year, probably eight million headed to Stanley Park to roll past Siwash Rock. Many locals gaze upon it, too – some even in their own living rooms, thanks to the famous lithograph by artist Roy Henry Vickers. Granville Island Public Market: It took about $20 million in the 1970s to turn Granville Island from a sandbar into the world-famous urban market that it is today. Some locals feared that the “island” peaked in the ’80s, but a revival anchored in the local culinary movement is putting Granville Island back on the map for Vancouverites. Visitors, well, they’ve always loved sitting on the docks and dodging seagulls in the sunshine. We may chuckle at their zealous photo-taking, salmon gobbling and maple syrup-sampling, but deep down we revel in the presence of visitors, because they further validate what we already know: that B.C. is one of the most incredible places on earth. Brockton Point Totem Poles: Stanley Park’s iconic totem poles, now nine in total, are a popular photo opp. Purchased by the park board – often in conjunction with what is, today, the Museum of Vancouver – the poles come from all over the province and date from the late 1880s through to 2009, when a new pole, carved by Robert Yelto of the Squamish Nation, was added to the site . Lions Gate Bridge and the North Shore Mountains: The gateway to the stunning North Shore, the Lions Gate Bridge never ceases to wow visitors. And while travelling north across it into the lush mountains never grows old for Vancouverites, equally impressive is the fact that the bridge, built in 1938, finished construction ahead of schedule and just under budget, at $5,959,600. A toll of 25 cents a car was lifted in 1963. Gastown Steam Clock: It adds to the historic feel of Gastown, but the world’s only steam clock was actually built in 1977, in a Victorian-era design. It has had its share of functional ups and downs, and these days the clock runs on an electric engine (though the steam flowing from it is tapped from the city’s central underground steam system). But the clock has never failed in its original duty: covering up a steam gate that was attracting less fortunate folks looking for a cosy, warm place to nap. n