B.C. tourism stakeholders gathering for conference in Prince George

Backcountry skiers make the climb towards the switchbacks along Viking Ridge west of Prince George. Developing visitor attractions will be focus of the B.C Tourism and Hospitality Conference coming to Prince George, March 1-3 | Tourism PG photo

More than 300 delegates are expected for the BC Tourism and Hospitality Conference, March 1-3 at the Prince George Civic and Conference Centre, and they’re all invited to Otway Nordic Centre to try out our world-class cross-country ski and snowshoe trails before the conference gets cooking downtown the following day.

“Us and Northern BC Tourism Association are hosting the welcome reception and we really wanted to make it feel like Prince George and embrace that we’re in the north, so the reception will be held at the (home of the) Caledonia Nordic Ski Club,” said Tourism Prince George CEO Colin Carson.

“We’re going to encourage people to go outside. We have some ski rentals set up and we’ll have some fires set up, so it’ll be a bit of northern experience some of these folks coming from the Lower Mainland might not have experienced before.”

Walt Judas, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of B.C., visits Prince George once or twice every year and this is a rare opportunity to get tourism stakeholders from all regions of the province together in a part of the province that's not a high-profile tourist destination.

“Because we’re an industry that’s so spread out we don’t often get a chance to connect with each other in personal settings and it’s such a big motivator because people like to talk about best practices and maybe partner on certain programs and initiatives,” said Judas, from his base in Vancouver.

“Many people that work in our sector have actually never experienced the north. They don’t know what it’s about. In as much as they’ve never thought of a vacation in Prince George or the north, this will be a catalyst for learning more about the culture and the people of the north and what Prince George and the surrounding region offers. As they learn more, they will be directing more people there, to be sure.”

The conference has never been held north of Kelowna. It was supposed to come to Prince George in 2021 but that was postponed by the pandemic. It was put off again last year with the Prince George Civic Centre still being used as the COVID vaccination site and Vancouver stepped up to stage the event.

“We’re just excited to host it and we’re fortunate to partner with the Northern B.C. Tourism Association to get the conference to Prince George,” said Carson. “For me, it’s always about networking with these  other destinations and really seeing what they’re doing or even ideas we can steal.”

Tourism Prince George is one of the nominees, along with Chilliwack and Victoria, for the professional excellence award, to be presented as part of the BC Tourism and Hospitality awards ceremony on the night of Wednesday, March 2. Northern FanCon is nominated, along with Barkerville Historic Town & Park, for the remarkable experience award, while Barkerville CEO Kate Cox is in the running for businesswoman of the year.

“While it may not have the amenities you’ll find in places like Vancouver, Kelowna, Whistler or Victoria, people love living in Prince George,” said Judah. “What it offers, the people that are there and the jumping points to the wonderful countryside, the outdoor adventure and what excursions they can go on, that’s really the big appeal, and it’s not that difficult to get to, especially in the summertime.”