In 2006, District of Wells received a $86,892 grant and a $608 loan from Northern Development through the Economic Diversification Infrastructure program towards this $381,972 project. This has been a funding partnership of District of Wells, Northern Development, Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association, Cariboo Regional District, Friends of the Wells Community Hall, Local Volunteers, Province of British Columbia, Provincial Crown Land, Tourism BC, Towns for Tomorrow, Tree Canada, Union of BC Municipalities, and Wells and District Chamber of Commerce
The District of Wells is positioning the area and its local businesses to continually take greater advantage of the tourism traffic that flows through the community to the Barkerville Historic Town each year. At the same time, Wells is focusing on becoming an arts and culture tourist destination by using their world-class music festival as a key anchor to develop the community’s season tourism industry. To directly support these efforts, the District of Wells relocated and upgraded their Visitor Information Centre in 2006 to be situated at the entrance of the community. This relocation, along with improved street signage, now allows Wells to attract visitors well in excess of the five percent of Barkerville traffic that was diverted previous to the this investment in community infrastructure.
This project consists of the development of new tourism infrastructure including an improved festival site and area lighting that increases attendance to the annual ArtsWells Festival on the August long weekend. Wells has improved street signage directing tourists to local gallery and tourism businesses, improved the visual appearance of historical buildings, and developed a walking tour brochure that showcases the history of Wells and helps bring tourists into the local businesses in the community’s small downtown district.
Under this project, unused areas of the Wells/Barkerville community school have been converted into a multi-purpose facility including a Community Recreation Centre, a 2010 Live Site, and studio rental space.
"Our new Visitor Information Centre is invaluable to Wells. It is in a location that is highly visible and allows our community to present all it has to offer to tourists, many of whom are going to Barkerville and otherwise would have driven right by us without stopping. The location has proven so lively that a private food concession has opened there to serve the needs of both tourists and locals. Our small community would not have been able to afford to make these improvements without the support of Northern Development. Not only does Wells benefit, but having better informed, happier tourists is in the interest of the tourism sector for the whole Cariboo region."Jason Griffin, former Marketing and Economic Development Officer, District of Wells
The tourism and economic development project has helped the community diversify its economic infrastructure. Wells plans to increase their tax base through taking full advantage of the economic benefits from their annual music festival, the ArtsWells Festival. This festival attracts approximately 1,500 visitors and performers over the August long weekend, and acts as a showcase for the community. It has led to numerous new residents moving to Wells.
The relocation of the Visitor Information Centre increases the marketability of the region as a snowmobiling and cross-country skiing destination in the winter. In the first year after the development, motel revenues have increased close to $30,000 and snowmobile trail pass revenues have more than doubled. In addition to maintaining existing businesses, eight new businesses have opened to take advantage of increased tourism opportunities in Wells and the surrounding area.