Poor ferry service hampers tourist visits to B.C.’s northern coast

Great Bear Rainforest could be a huge draw for tourists, if only they had a way to get there

Tourism opportunities along B.C.’s northern coast are currently hampered by inconsistent and inconvenient ferry service, according to a group of tourism associations, First Nations and businesses.
“We as a tourism industry want to make sure we can capitalize on the interest right now in the Great Bear Rainforest,” says Keith Henry, CEO of the Aboriginal Tourism Association of Canada. “The way it is right now, it’s difficult to get people around B.C.’s coast.” 
The group, which included tour operators, the BC Hotel Association, the City of Williams Lake and the Heiltsuk Nation, recently completed a report which called on the B.C. government to help design a regional tourism development plan. Since ferry service was reduced in 2012, visitors to the coast have dropped significantly. Routes between Port Hardy and Bella Coola, for example, run about twice a week and take 16.5 hours, arriving at midnight.
 “We’re trying to get the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and BC Ferries to take a moment and stop building plans off of what happened in the past,” says Henry. “There has to be a vision to market and promote this region.”
With the reconfiguration of ferry routes, selection of new faster vessels, and a three to five-year international and domestic marketing effort, the report estimates that 10,000 to 16,000 new visitors could be attracted to the area each year. 

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