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Coquitlam is readying for post-pandemic tourism

The pandemic is shifting the way the city of Coquitlam is approaching tourism as an economic driver.
eric kalnins
Eric Kalnins is Coquitlam's tourism manager.

How do you market a city during a pandemic? Plan, plan, plan.

With the provincial health orders restricting gatherings and travel, the city of Coquitlam’s tourism manager is laying the groundwork for the swell of tourists to come.

“There’s going to be pent-up demand, and fierce competition in the tourism industry,” Eric Kalnins told the Tri-City News. “We need to be prepared for that.”

Kalnins has been picking the brains of city staff, business owners and stakeholders about how to capitalize on the next five years. 

Last Thursday, he spoke before the city’s cultural services advisory committee to discuss future opportunities to promote festivals and other arts-related events; Kalnins is also keeping a close eye on other municipalities to guide his research.

That revised strategy, for 2022-’26, is expected to come before council this fall.

For now, though, his tourism push is for local residents and day-trippers who want to get out of their homes. “We have to be so careful with our messaging because we don’t want to go against any health orders,” he said. “We have to be very fluid.”

During the lockdown, the city’s campaign is to continue to support Coquitlam groups and businesses — some of which have lost most of their income, staff and volunteers; other organizations have lost momentum and it’s unclear if they’ll revive, he lamented.

For eateries, which currently can’t have patrons dining inside their restaurants, Kalnins is encouraging the owners to expand outdoors. And he’s recommending “cultural tourism packages” to lure customers — e.g., pairing a virtual event such as Festival du Bois (which opens Friday via with a French-Canadian meal — for live patio entertainment.

For visitors seeking physical activity, Kalnins is building “experience packages” to entice visitors to exercise and tour the area afterward. An example would be to hop on the Evergreen Extension to Lafarge Lake-Douglas, walk around Town Centre Park, go into the Evergreen art gallery and catch a bite to eat along Glen Drive — “one of the best places for ethnic food…. These are things within five minutes of the SkyTrain station.” 

Still, “we can’t tell everyone, ’Go to the Coquitlam Crunch this weekend’ because we need to be safe, but you can use the park finder and go to these places during off-peak times, or in the rain.” 

Kalnins added, “[The pandemic] is changing the way we operate. Tourism is a huge economic driver for Coquitlam and when the world opens up again, we hope that people will see that we have a pretty good mix of things to do here.”