A Destination Castlegar survey shows Castlegar area residents think the outdoors is our best tourist attraction. Photo: Betsy Kline

A Destination Castlegar survey shows Castlegar area residents think the outdoors is our best tourist attraction. Photo: Betsy Kline

Survey: Castlegar area residents see outdoor recreation as top tourist draw

The results of a survey done by Destination Castlegar reveal how local residents view their home town as a travel destination.

A strong majority of respondents (76 per cent) felt the Castlegar area was a desirable tourist destination and that was mainly due to the outdoor recreation opportunities of the area.

When asked why they felt the area was a good destination, 210 of the respondents mentioned outdoor recreation including hiking, water activities, mountain biking, skiing, snowmobiling, camping, fishing and rock climbing. 69 people also listed the natural beauty of the region as a draw.

Another category that did well was arts and culture, with Millennium Park and Sculpturewalk topping the list.

Of those who didn’t think Castlegar was a desirable tourist destination, a lack of entertainment options or tourist amenities and a lack of restaurants topped the list.

When analyzing the survey responses, it is important to note that the answers may not accurately reflect the facts, but rather reflect resident’s perceptions and opinions.

Survey respondents ranked hiking, fishing and mountain biking as the top three tourism draws, followed by golfing, cross country skiing, paddling and snowmobiling.

From the arts and culture responses, Sculpturewalk (169 votes), Millennium Park (155) and Zuckerburg Island (152) were the highest tourism draws. Places of historical significance also made the list with the Brilliant Suspension Bridge (117), Doukhobor Discovery Centre (96), CP Railway Museum (66) and Verigin Memorial Park (42). The Kootenay Gallery of Art (78) was also appreciated by respondents.

When it came to locals actually visiting the sites they included on the list, Millennium Park and Zuckerburg Island were the two most visited locations, followed by Sculpturewalk.

But the survey results also showed that local residents may not be taking advantage of some of the cultural opportunities in their own back yards. The majority of respondents said in the last three years or more that they had not visited Verigin Memorial Park, Doukhobor Discovery Centre, CP Railway Museum or the Kootenay Gallery. A significant number of respondents said they had never visited those locations.

Survey respondents viewed transportation around town and finding things to do in town as the top hindrances visitors face when exploring Castlegar. Accommodations, signage and quality of services were also listed as concerns.

When asked for suggestions as to how visitor experiences could be improved, respondents listed revitalizing downtown (adding more stores/restaurants and refreshing storefronts of existing businesses), improving advertising including increasing signage to outdoor recreation opportunities, and improving shopping options.

The online survey was done in February as part of the development of a destination development plan for Castlegar and RDCK Areas I and J. Once completed, the plan will guide strategies and goals for Destination Castlegar. Next steps include visitor surveys in June and July, heritage consultations, Indigenous engagement and a development workshop this fall.