As a nine-year resident and business owner in Harrison Hot Springs, I would like to discuss a disturbing decrease in tourism that I’ve noticed in our village.
Since the sand castle competition was cancelled a few years ago, our September traffic has all but ceased. My business has decreased by 75 per cent in September for the last few years. We have seen at least 4 major tourist events disappear recently (sand castles, Harrison triathlon, Haney-Harrison run, Poker Run) and the last remaining major tourist event, the Harrison Festival of the Arts, has lost the majority of its funding this year. Some people seem to think that building more empty condos or townhouses is the key to success, but I would have to disagree. Harrison is a 100 per cent tourism economy. There is no industry or manufacturing here. There is only a beautiful, picturesque village full of lovely people wanting to make sure that everyone who visits here has a great time.
Developers keep coming here wanting to put in more condos and pay parking etc, trying to compare us with Whistler and White Rock, but we should be looking more at Squamish as our inspiration. We have all the same activities as Squamish (windsurfing/kiteboarding, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, etc.) but we don’t do anything to promote them.
We could get local hiking clubs to mark & maintain trails and have maps at the tourism office, we could fix the breakwater to make it more accessible to windsurfers and kite boarders, we could have a buskers festival with street performers from all over the world entertaining our guests, we could put on the biggest Oktoberfest in the Lower Mainland. None of this would cost the village anything, but would give people something to do while they’re here, and something to talk about when they get home, resulting in more people coming here to check us out.
Harrison is the most wonderful place I’ve ever lived, and I want to share it with more people, and I don’t want to have to leave just because it’s impossible to make a living here, but like most business owners in Harrison, we’re struggling.
If anyone wants to discuss this further or has some other ideas, you know where to find me — down on the beach, working.
Layback Lounge and Beach Potato