The Nisga’a Nation tourism board will be holding their first pilot tour in the Nass Valley this summer.
The tour from July 12 to 16 is part of a multi-year plan to encourage and grow tourism into the area, with an intention to create more jobs and infrastructure.
“The idea is to make Nisga’a Nation have their own destination brand,” says Bertram Mercer, manager of economic development of the Nisga’a Lisims Government.
The five-day tour highlights all four villages of the Nisga’a Nation, with visits to local restaurants, stays at lodges and cultural activities. Along the way are several stops at scenic nature sites such as the hot springs, the lava beds, waterfalls and lakes.
Approximately eight people, made up of tourism representatives and “influencers”, will be joining in the tour to test the fluidity of the itinerary and provide feedback on how “tourism ready” each location is, and how it can be improved. The tour will also be featured on Destination BC, Indigenous Tourism Canada and through different tour operators.
Dana Schoahs, director of marketing at Indigenous Tourism BC, says she sees great potential for the Nisga’a Nation and what it has to offer, especially given the vast landscape and uniqueness of the Nass Valley.
“[The goal is to] work with industry partners because they will be our influencers and they will also be the ones that kind of sell it,” she says. “It needs to be market ready [with] scheduled departures, the place has to be reliable and stuff like that…it’s really to understand where are we at with the destination? What needs to be happening? And where do we have to work with the individual businesses to get them to the next stage? It’s ironing out all the kinks.”
Scoahs says they’ve recognized an increase in expressed interest in Indigenous tourism in the province and nation-wide as more people are wanting to have more cultural experiences they can’t find in bigger cities.
“They really [like to] experience a destination, not just like come in and come out,” says Schoahs. “One in three visitors to Canada are looking for an Indigenous tourism experience.”
Scoahs will help launch the Nisga’a tourism brand to entice a tourism appeal. Prior to this contract, Scoahs was a part in establishing Haida Gwaii’s Indigenous tourism and sees a lot of comparable factors. She says their aim is to convince people booking their next trip to Canada, specifically from countries like Germany, the Netherlands, and Australia, to include the Nass Valley on their to-do list.
“[This would be] really showcasing their culture, bringing that to the forefront and marrying it with the beautiful landscape for people to get an appreciation [of it all],” she says.
Driving through the Nass Valley, signs indicating points of interest along the Nisga’a Highway are part of the “Auto Tour Route”. These spots are designated tourist stops to be included in the itinerary, which would also eventually cater to tour buses in a few years. At the moment, these pull-offs are for self-guided and smaller vehicle tours.
“When someone comes in on the buses, we can bring them out to places to look at the sites and have an ambassador there to explain the significance,” Mercer says.
BC Parks has also been working with the Nisga’a tourism board to build more tourist-required facilities like rest stop washrooms, trail maintenance and a visitors centre.
Mercer adds their vision of a tourism industry has already sparked a few entrepreneurs to launch their own businesses. Members are able to enroll in business workshops and certification programs to help develop important skills that could benefit tourism in the area.