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Group says lack of access stifling tourism opportunities to central coast

First Nations and tourism operators in BC say better access to the Great Bear Rainforest is needed in order for people to enjoy what the province describes as BC’s gift to the world.

A report from aboriginals, businesses and communities in the central coast region has concluded that transportation challenges into area are hurting tourism opportunities at the same time as First nations tourism potential is exploding in other parts of the BC.

The Mid-Coast BC Ferry Working Group recently presented its transportation and tourism development report to B.C.’s transportation and jobs ministers and BC Ferries officials.

Keith Henry is with the Aboriginal Tourism Association of Canada.

He says the report is a comprehensive study on how to grow tourism along with ferry ridership.

Henry says there’s a potential to boost ferry ridership by 10 to 16,000, but it’ll take a concerted effort by a number of groups.

Heiltsuk Nation Councillor Travis Hall says it’s cheaper to fly to Hawaii from Vancouver than to the central coast community of Bella Bella, located on the doorstep of the Great Bear Rainforest.

He says the Heiltsuk have plans to develop Great Bear Rainforest tours and First Nations artist shows, but current BC Ferries service is limited to Fridays and Saturday only.

Hall says the report was welcomed by BC Ferries officials, adding BC Ferries will soon be making a scheduling announcement in regards to the central coast.

High costs and fewer passengers prompted the Transportation Ministry to cut ferry service along the Port Hardy to Bella Coola service, despite concerns from First Nations and tourism operators.

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