Tourism Harrison plans for a boost in tourism for 2015

Last year's increase in overnight stays coupled with new events and low Canadian dollar equals positive signs for 2015

Tourism Harrison is anticipating a great year for 2015.

With the success of 2014, some new events in the works plus a drop in the Canadian dollar, there are lots of reasons for tourists to come stay and play in Harrison this year.

Last year was a “good year” for tourism, shares Robert Reyerse, executive director at Tourism Harrison. Hotel occupancy was up five per cent over the previous year, slightly above the provincial average.

“We’re holding our own, doing reasonably well,” he remarks.

With the Canadian dollar down, Tourism Harrison estimates it will lead to more Canadians staying on home soil for vacations and will also mean more Americans coming to Canada for holidays.

Tourism Harrison has a service agreement with the Village of Harrison Hot Springs. The Village provides funding to Tourism Harrison through the Resort Municipality Initiative. Tourism Harrison can use that money for specific things like event planning and co-ordination. To that end, Reyerse was at the last Village Council Monday, Feb. 2 meeting to seek approval for the 2015 plan of events.

At the meeting, Reyerse shared that plans are underway for a new wine festival this April at the Harrison Memorial Hall. It will be a one-weekend, ticketed event.

“We will start small and see if it’s something we can grow,” says Reyerse.

There are approximately 15 wineries signed up and a number of restaurants involved as well. Reyerse says the idea of the wine festival actually “flowed out” of the beer festival.

“A number of people suggested ‘beer is great, but I like wine’,” he recalls. It so happened, one of the beer distributors also distributes wine and the idea was uncorked.

Adding the wine festival to the calendar means there is now an event happening in Harrison almost every month of the year. Reyerse explained to Harrison Council that when he took over Tourism Harrison, one of the key areas he wanted to focus on was establishing events that would bring in more visitors and provide more to do for those already coming to Harrison. Whistler took the initiative on using the RMI funding for event planning and Tourism Harrison quickly followed the mountain community’s lead.

“Harrison does pretty well in the summer,” Reyerse told Council. “What we want to do is bring people here in the off-season, in the shoulder season.”

At this point, Tourism Harrison is basically at “capacity,” says Reyerse. Factors such as the logistics of venues and the types of events that fit well with Harrison’s branding put a cap on expansion. For example, the beer festival is a very successful annual event and Reyerse told Council tickets sell out well in advance. But due to space constraints, they cannot grow the beer festival much more than it already is.

Just last weekend, Tourism Harrison hosted a Harrison Family Fun Carnival. Running over two days at two venues, the event drew in families from across the Lower Mainland to play mini golf, run through a 40-foot obstacle course, watch a puppet show or juggling acrobat, make a button, jump in a bouncy castle and go on a scavenger hunt.