Fort St. James Aims to Attract Hotel Developers In Order To Expand Tourism And Support Industry

District of Fort St. James

2012-The Fort St. James National Historic Site, the ancient burial site of Carrier Chief Kwah, Our Lady of Good Hope Catholic Church, and the monument to legendary bush pilot Russ Baker, are just a few of the many reasons visitors to northern British Columbia make the journey up Highway 27 each year to Fort St. James. With over 10,000 visiting tourists each year, a growing opportunity for hosting regional conferences and sporting events, record-setting volumes of mining exploration, and the development of the Mount Milligan copper/gold mine near the community, the District of Fort. St. James identified the expansion of the community's hotel room capacity as a constraint to supporting economic growth.

Initially in 2008, Fort St. James' Economic Development Officer contacted four hoteliers to determine the information each hotel operator would need in order to make an investment decision in the community.

In 2010, after meeting with a potential hotel investor, it was decided that a comprehensive industry attraction plan would be a wise next step in moving the hotel development process forward.

The first phase of the plan was developed to evaluate the market demand for a new hotel in Fort St. James, analyze the economics of operating within the community, project the expected annual income and expenses for a new operating hotel, and possible facility details including room count, meeting space, pool and waterslide, and restaurant facilities.

The second phase of the study involved a supply and demand analysis of specific properties in Fort St. James to determine their comparative advantages and market value for locating a new hotel. This portion of the study led to projected future trends in a new hotel's occupancy, average rate and overall rooms revenues in Fort St. James.

The work completed under this industry attraction plan has been very useful to the municipality and prospective investors, as it analyzes the need for a hotel, the size of the hotel needed to accommodate demand, and all of the anticipated costs associated with investment in the development of a new hotel. By providing potential investors with a comprehensive plan, the District of Fort St. James is strategically positioning the community with a significant advantage in marketing itself in comparison with other communities that are also very interested in attracting new investment in hotel development.

"The Hotel Development Industry Attraction project is a success story for our community, and a model for investment-attraction large-scale development practices."

Emily Colombo, Economic Development Officer, Fort St. James

"Fort St. James has a booming economy, strong tourism draws and one of the most scenic waterfronts in Northern British Columbia. The success of the Hotel Development Study has helped to bring long-term investors into our community while setting the stage to increase our capacity to accommodate visitors. The quality of the study and the phased development of the project will help to make sure that the vision of accommodations for all who wish to visit here can be achieved."

Emily Colombo, Economic Development Officer, Fort St. James

Positive Economic Impacts in Fort St. James

The District of Fort St. James has dedicated a wide range of resources and investment in improving the community to attract tourism and to encourage tourists to lengthen their stays in Fort St. James. A major missing piece of the puzzle in developing a stronger tourism sector in Fort St. James has been a lack of suitable accommodations. Simultaneously, the community is feeling the pressure of accomodating hundreds of engineers, mine developers, and workers drawn to Fort St. James through the multi-year development of the Mount Milligan mine, straining the limited hotel capacity existing in the community. The District was confident that a professional and comprehensive business case analysis for hotel development in Fort St. James would attract hotel developers, and inform them on what is an excellent new hotel investment opportunity with long-term, sustainable revenue generating potential.

Immediately upon release of the Hotel Development - Industry Attraction Study report in early 2011, ten potential investors requested copies to enable them to examine potential hotel investment in the community. Located on the downtown waterfront, the aging and laregely unusable Fort Hotel location examined in the study as a potential site for development sold in May 2011, largely in part to the effectiveness of the study's identification of the site as an attractive case for investment. Now, the purchasors of the site are using the study's findings to inform how they will structure a business plan that will directly support the financing and operation of a new hotel in Fort St. James.

Residents are excited with the potential this project may have for the community by replacing an unsafe building while also seeing the construction of high quality lodging accomodations along the shore of Stuart Lake. Through construction of a new hotel, a significant number of local workers will be employed, there will be opportunities for the developer to procure timber locally from the mills in Fort St. James, and once operational, a whole range of new employment opportunities from chefs, cooks, conference event coordinators, room service, and administrative positions could be created in the community.

Increasing the number of beds available for tourism and business visitors will mean increased revenue and local spending for small business owners throughout Fort St. James. The Hotel Development Industry Attraction Study is already being seen as a success for the community, and a model for rural communities to undertake comprehensive industry attraction campaigns.