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Five-year plan for Tourism Chilliwack features themes of responsibility and reconciliation

Plan acknowledges an ‘explosion of outdoor recreation’ pursuit and interest in the wake of COVID-19
Image from the five-year strategic plan that will guide Tourism Chilliwack 2022-27. (Tourism Chilliwack)

Chilliwack Tourism is planning its future – responsibly and sustainably.

A new strategic plan is set to guide Tourism Chilliwack for the next five years, and highlights of the ‘Ch’illiwack Tourism Strategic Plan 2022-27‘ were presented to city council by executive director Allison Colthorp last month.

The plan points out “an explosion of outdoor recreation” pursuit in the wake of COVID-19, and the demand for outdoor experiences has grown exponentially during the pandemic.

A new vision statement lights the path ahead: “To position Chilliwack as an iconic destination to adventure and unwind, partnering with our community stakeholders to invite visitors to responsibly experience the area’s urban and natural attractions.”

There’s a dawning expectation for folks who visit to tread lightly, and “responsibly” whether hiking, biking, dike walking or otherwise soaking up the natural beauty.

The move toward responsible tourism addresses the endless challenge of illegal garbage-dumping across the region, and reflects the need to shift into a “destination management” organization from a “destination marketing” one.

That purposeful shift to “management” is about taking care of the gift that is Chilliwack’s natural areas and preventing environmental damage, with a pack-it-in-pack-it-out mentality, Colthorp said.

Brian Minter, chair of the Tourism Chilliwack board, addressed the elephant in the room in his opening message: “Our tourism industry has been challenged like never before during this ongoing pandemic.

“We truly admire all our business associates who have suffered the loss of so many clients, due to travel restrictions and health protocols, but who, with great creativity and resilience, have managed to survive.”

With the approval of more vaccines he said there’s hope for a return “to some sense of normalcy” by the end of summer or into fall.

“We must be ready for this opportunity to begin our recovery,” Minter added, noting that the strategic plan they’ve completed will be key.

Chilliwack Tourism partners and stakeholders are working toward the first Indigenous reconciliation plan of its kind in Canada.

In preparation, they have woven reconciliation values right into the tapestry of the new five-year tourism plan.

“From what we know, we will be the first destination management organization in Canada to have done this and have an action plan,” Colthorp stated.

Reconciliation is one aspect of the freshly defined priorities for Tourism Chilliwack.

“We strive to put equity, diversity, inclusivity and accessibility at the forefront of our work, and by creating an Indigenous Reconciliation plan we aim to make Chilliwack a safe place to welcome all visitors,” the plan explains.

It’s action, not reaction, they’re after.

“We wish to be leaders in the area of reconciliation, inspiring other communities to prioritize and address the requirements as established in the National Truth and Reconciliation plan, and to the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

“Tourism Chilliwack has valued its strong relationship with the Stó:lō people.”

Elements of it can be seen in bold rebranding of Ch’illiwack using a subtle accent to acknowledge Indigenous history and connections.

“We can play a huge role in the messaging and education of visitors,” Colthorp underlined.

The reconciliation action plan, Siya:ya Yotes (Friends working together), is in the process of being drafted by Stólō reps and stakeholders, for adoption by the Tourism Chilliwack board later this year.

Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove stated that Chilliwack is on “the unceded and traditional territory” of the Stólō people, and features a beautiful and diverse community, surrounded by mountains lake, rivers, and agriculture.

“Tourism Chilliwack’s innovative and inclusive marketing programs embrace the rich history of the area,” he added, while showcasing activities and outdoor adventures to enjoy.

“When travel opens back up, I know Tourism Chilliwack will continue to attract visitors to our community,” Popove said.

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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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