2012 - Between 2007 and 2009, the communities on Haida Gwaii undertook a comprehensive tourism planning initiative through Tourism British Columbia's Community Tourism Foundations program. Through this planning initiative, the communities agreed on a strong desire to grow awareness of Haida Gwaii as a destination for high yield, low impact learning and adventure visitors, particularly in off-peak seasons (other than July and August). It was clearly recognized by all parties involved in the planning process that a destination-wide marketing and sales effort was critically needed in order to increase tourism on the islands.
In 2009, the Misty Isles Economic Development Society took leadership as the central tourism coordinator for development of the Haida Gwaii Destination Marketing Project. This project sees a significant opportunity to create a sustainable tourism economy on Haida Gwaii in keeping with the principles of British Columbia's Heritage Tourism Strategy. The Haida Heritage Centre and Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve are anchor elements for most markets, although the destination marketing project is also designed to focus on particular niche markets that have a narrower activity-based focus such as fishing, kayaking and bird watching.
In partnership with Skidegate Band Council, Old Massett Economic Development, Gwaii Haanas Park Reserve, Haida Heritage Centre, and the Queen Charlotte Visitor Centre, Misty Isles Economic Development Society hosted the 'Haida Gwaii House' destination marketing venue in downtown Vancouver throughout the 2010 Winter Olympics in February 2010. The project featured a contemporary longhouse-style venue, the website launch of GoHaidaGwaii.ca, local ambassadors from Haida Gwaii promoting the Islands to visitors, and an intensive media advertising campaign throughout 2009 leading up to and including the Olympics.
Haida Gwaii House featured an 11 foot pole by Tim Boyko, a transformation mask by Reg Davidson, a 5 foot white raven statue by Jim Hart, a Frog Box by Don Yeomans, a silk shawl with killer whale design by Dorothy Grant, killer whale and totem prints by April White, photos by various photographers, paddles by Jaalen Edenshaw, a 60 inch HD TV with footage of Haida Gwaii, two 40 inch HD TVs dislaying scenic photography of the Islands, a traditional longhouse fa?ade by Arthur Pearson, and massive cedar pedestals by Mark Yaroshuck.
A primary focus of the Destination Marketing Project is the GoHaidaGwaii.ca website. Misty Isles Economic Development Society had the advantage of being able to utilize previous research conducted by the Haida Gwaii Tourism Association and the excellent Destination Haida Gwaii branding work from the Skidegate Band Council. These enabled the project to establish the creation of a world-class travel destination website for the Islands. GoHaidaGwaii.ca welcomes visitors with inspiring imagery featuring the Southeast Wind design of Robert Davidson, enticing descriptions of the Islands, and a wealth of detailed information on services and adventures to be experienced.
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The opening of Haida Gwaii House consisted of almost an hour of powerful Haida drumming and singing to a crowd of over sixty people. The venue was open for over eighteen days during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, staffed by approximately twenty Haida Gwaii ambassadors. Misty Isles Economic Development Society and its partners enjoyed sharing the experience with over 15,000 people who stopped to smell the cedar, gazed in awe of the cultural and natural beauty, and listened intently while our ambassadors described Haida Gwaii from their own personal perspective.
This project was able to capitalize on the vast array of media attention throughout the 2010 Winter Olympics for Haida Gwaii. These included Haida Gwaii media releases, an article in the Vancouver Sun on the Haida Gwaii House, a half page advertisement in the three special Sunday Olympic editions of the Globe and Mail, an interview on CBC Radio - Day Break North, an interview with a local Vancouver TV station, and Olympic "things to do" on citycaucus.com, Vancouver Sun, and Tourism BC.
Future initiatives for the Haida Gwaii Destination Marketing Project include additional media promotion of Haida Gwaii, further website development including a web-based trip-planning and reservation tool, racking of the Haida Gwaii bookmarks on BC Ferries major routes and at Visitor Centres across the province. Misty Isles Economic Development Society is developing a follow up procedure to work with local visitor centers and tourism providers in tracking how visitors decided upon Haida Gwaii as a destination vacation. This data will assist Misty Isles Economic Development Society and their partners in determining the most successful approaches in their Destination Marketing Project initiatives.
In partnership with the Haida Gwaii Tourism Advisory Committee, Misty Isles Economic Development Society is exploring the potential for ongoing Tourism funding through the Resort Region Tax Transfer program and the Additional Hotel Room Tax program. In fifty five communities in British Columbia, the Destination Marketing Organizations' base operations are partially funded through a 2% Additional Hotel Room Tax program. In order to pursue continued development of destination marketing for Haida Gwaii, Misty Isles Economic Development Society has produced a draft business plan and is working with communities and partner organizations on Haida Gwaii to continue development of tourism on the Islands.