Tuesday October 26, 2021 | LANGFORD, BC [Updated 7 pm]
by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends
Despite the cool rainy weather, about 80 people showed up for an official introduction to the new Skywalk tourist attraction up on the Malahat.
Hosted by the City of Langford, the main thrust of the event was to promote the new Spirit Loop tourism marketing initiative, with an announcement held at the Malahat Skywalk at 901 Trans Canada Highway.
Regional tourism will be supported, with economic benefits for businesses and communities along the Pacific Marine Circle Route., (PMCR) starting with Langford, heading to Sooke, all the way up to Port Renfrew then down to the Malahat in Langford as a full return.
Part of the marketing assets rolled out today included a short documentary-style film highlighting a three-night road trip along the sroute.
The new tourism marketing collective sees the City of Langford in partnership with Sooke to Port Renfrew Regional Tourism Association, Malahat Nation, Malahat Skywalk and Destination BC was officially launched. The T’Sou-ke Nation also participated in the program development.
A live musical performance by the local singer-songwriter who composed music for the Skywalk/Spirit Loop promotional video capped off the speeches today.
Destination BC matching funds:
First formed in 2019, the Spirit Loop is positioned to promote unique tourism experiences in Langford, Sooke, Port Renfrew and Malahat regions. The announcement and rollout of the first campaign assets were stalled due to limited access to tourism businesses and travel restrictions related to COVID-19.
Funding for the project is provided by each above-noted partner with matching funds from Destination BC’s co-op marketing program. The program has been funded for two years, with the campaign positioned to grow and evolve with further support from private sector businesses and other key stakeholders.
Driving consumer demand:
Two speakers from Destination BC — one doing his last official engagement for Destination BC ahead of retirement (after 27 years), and the other coming into the top job after many years with the organization — were excited about the Skywalk and the Spirit Loop strategy. Destination BC supported the venture through their industry partnership marketing program, designed by the outgoing Peter Harrison in 2015, said new Destination BC CEO Richard Porges.
Harrison said the Spirit Loop launch was “long awaited”, and he was glad to be at an in-person event, after the 20 months of COVID pandemic virtual meetings.
The partnership program application was made in 2019, and approved in 2020 just before the pandemic hit, but work on the program continued through the pandemic toward today’s Fall 2021 launch. In the Spirit Loop is seen a common tourism interest, and a compelling vision, with goals of driving consumer demand and visitor revenue through innovative marketing. “It’s about fostering long term partnerships through key industry collaboration,” said Harrison, implying the longevity of this regional venture with Langford at its core.
Funding is from Destination BC and through the Provincial Government, and Destination Canada as well, said Harrison. Flexibility was key through the COVID period. He noted that Langford initiated the project and navigated the many unknowns.
The Langford thrust:
Mayor Stew Young spearheaded the Spirit Loop concept, in keeping with his view to Langford being an economic driving force within the west shore island region.
He told today’s crowd how he dropped into the Skywalk throughout this past summer to see the project come together. He is pleased at the collaboration of partners in the region.
In highlighting the significance of the program, Langford Mayor Stew Young said: “We have always collaborated with our neighbouring communities, but this concentrated effort to jointly promote unique tourism offerings and boost the visitor economy in each community is taking it to the next level. We are excited to share the memorable experiences available for visitors to our region. More than ever, tourism businesses need our help, and this campaign will do just that.”
Looping in Sooke:
A long-struggling community for finding its economic security, around 2008 it was realized in Sooke that their previous fishing and forestry dependency was long gone, and that tourism would save the day.
Fast-forward to 2021 and now Sooke is piggy-backing on the economic momentum that Langford provides.
Coordinating the effort on the ground is the Port Renfrew Economic Development Development Task Force headed up by Peter Doukakis who spoke excitedly today about the potential economic boost for businesses in the Sooke to Port Renfrew region.
“This partnership supports Indigenous tourism and is an example of reconciliation in action,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport in a written statement. “The Spirit Loop highlights how Indigenous tourism businesses are connecting people and communities and encouraging visitors to spend time at several destinations while creating a deeper connection – what a great way to showcase all there is to eat, play and stay on this part of Vancouver Island!”
“It is great to see we are working together as one to grow the community and Vancouver Island tourism business. We are excited to invite people to see the beauty of Malahat Territory and the surrounding region. Malahat Nation is proud to be a part of the growth and stand along all communities as they move side by side offering help and do what our people have done for thousands of years and that is to move as one and build as one.” said Chief George Harry, Malahat Nation.
About the promotional video:
The short documentary-style film highlights a 3-night road trip hosted by Derek Juno. The 14-minute short captures the essence of each region and features unscripted interviews and moments caught during the 4-day seamless shoot. “The intention of the documentary was to approach traditional tourism marketing in a memorable way that captures the journey of a curious, adventurous traveller reconnecting with his own spirit while touring the Loop.
Local musician Vince Vaccaro was hired to write, produce and perform the original soundtrack for the documentary, including a theme song and multiple interludes. The song will be officially launched by Vaccaro this November on Spotify. The soundtrack will be part of a road trip playlist curated especially for the Spirit Loop campaign.
“This initiative aligns with our commitment to support the sustainable, long-term growth of the tourism industry on Vancouver Island. We are collectively giving travellers a new reason to visit and stay longer and offering locals a way to connect with their natural environment,” says Ken Bailey, General Manager, Malahat SkyWalk. “Visitors are looking for immersive, local experiences that showcase the real Vancouver Island and the people who live here. The Spirit Loop offers that.”
Over the coming days, the marketing assets will be launched, including the short documentary-style film which launches today at spiritloop.ca .
Today’s event held under two tents on this rainy day included beverages as well as a take-away snack by House of Boetang restaurant, and self-guided tours of the Skywalk.
===== About the writer:
Mary P Brooke has been writing about the west shore region since 2008, through her own series of publications: MapleLine Magazine 2008-2010, Sooke Voice News 2011-2013, West Shore Voice News 2014-2020, and as the fully digital Island Social Trends since mid-2020, with input from young writers who benefit from training as they go along.
The Island Social Trends news focus is always through a socioeconomic lens, exploring impacts on people, communities and businesses.