Recent Economic Success Stories

The North Island

Northern Vancouver Island communities have suffered from the decline of the forest industry, and tourism has become a leading source of diversification of economic activity.

The North Island is experiencing an economic evolution by making the most of emerging opportunities and capitalizing on things they already do well. The North Island is diversifying away from vanishing and downsized industries (forestry, mining, commercial fishing – the traditional engines that once drove the local economy) and developing new sectors proven to work, including tourism and aquaculture. The steady growth of a sustainable tourism industry in the North Vancouver Island region celebrates both the environmental and cultural diversity of the area while creating long-term jobs for residents who wish to continue living in this world renowned natural environment. To learn more, visit

Port McNeill Harbour Development

Port McNeill Harbour is the gateway to the Broughton Archipelago, and is often referred to as the “Hub of the North Island,” for its role as a launching point for the region’s resorts, logging camps, aquaculture sites, ecotourism destinations. The development of the Port McNeill Harbour included the extension of the east-side breakwater, creating space for new floats which resulted in a 70% increase in mooring capacity.

These improvements have resulted in significant investments by adjoining harbour businesses, creating additional capacity and services to meet the needs of visitors and recreational boaters. The expansion also supports growth in commercial fishing, as well as a variety of other commercial activities including: aquaculture; resort tourism; sand and gravel extraction; and ocean-based research and development. By 2015, the redevelopment is expected to support 80 new local jobs. To learn more, visit

Cape Scott North Coast Trail

Ecotourism is the fastest growing sector of the tourism industry, and increasing tourism investment and revenue supports the long term economic sustainability of the North Island region. Since its completion, the North Coast Trail has acquired an international reputation as a world class trail and is being compared to the West Coast Trail 20 years ago, rich in wildlife, history and rugged adventure. 

The addition of the trail has had a significant impact on the Port Hardy area economy with the opening of two new travelers’ hostels, cafes and other businesses catering to trail users. The project also resulted in significant investment and expansion of the North Coast Trail Shuttle and water taxi business, 3-4 new guide outfitters operating in the region in addition to 6-7 direct full time seasonal jobs in trail management.  There are also other indirect benefits of increased adventure tourism in the region such as the attraction of a younger, adventure seeking demographic to the region who have invested in eco-cabins and other tourism related businesses. To learn more, visit

Campbell River Airport Runway Expansion

The City of Campbell River has historically been the hub for resource-based industry on northern Vancouver Island, relying on forestry, mining and fishing as its economic generators. Concerned about the downturn in the resource sector impacting local economy, the City wanted to expand the existing 5000 foot airport runway by 1,500 feet. This would allow for newer and larger aircraft to land at the airport, opening new opportunities in tourism and providing improved infrastructure for attracting and retaining businesses.

Campbell River’s airport expansion was crucial for attracting and retaining businesses in the region, and developing a broader and more-resilient economic base for the community. To learn more, visit

Nanaimo Airport Expansion

Nanaimo’s airport expansion was part of the region’s strategy to seize new opportunities to diversify and to grow. The runway expansion enabled the airport to meet the growing demands of mid-Island travellers by hosting direct flights which eliminate the need for passengers to take short haul connections to Vancouver or travel longer distances to other major airports. This has had significant positive impacts on local businesses and institutions such as Vancouver Island University, by improving direct air access to their products and services. The improved service is also having a positive impact on new business investment in the region.

Since the expansion, new services at the airport include the addition of WestJet Encore flights to Calgary, Kenmore Air service to Seattle, FedEx Express daily courier flights as well as a new aviation service business, Enex Fuels.  In 2013, the Airport saw its highest passenger numbers ever, with 21 percent increase in passenger numbers over previous year. To learn more, visit

Ucluelet Aquarium

The west coast of Vancouver Island has long been a favorite international travel destination.  In recent years, travelers to the area’s famous beaches and resorts have been choosing to explore wider afield into the region’s communities. Ucluelet has benefitted from this trend and developed its own suite of tourism amenities such as the Wild Pacific Trail. However, one of the drawbacks to keeping tourists in the region for longer periods of time is the lack of indoor tourism and recreation opportunities. The development of a larger, permanent facility has resulted in quality local employment opportunities for naturalists, biologists, guides, as well as service and maintenance staff.

The development of a family oriented, indoor experience, is resulting in longer stays in the region and attracting a more diverse visitor base.  The increase in visitors supports tourism-related services within the region, benefitting an area impacted by the loss of forestry and fisheries jobs. Less than one year after opening, the Aquarium has generated more than 22,000 paid visits and resulted in the retirement of all of the construction debt. To learn more, visit

Ladysmith Community Marina Visitor Facilities

In recent years, Ladysmith and the surrounding area has suffered from industrial-plant closures resulting in a loss of jobs and economic activity. The region is now looking to marine tourism opportunities as a key piece of its economic diversification strategy. Marine tourism is an important economic driver for southern Vancouver Island. The Ladysmith Community Marina Visitor Facilities Project initiated a project to increase its marina space and build a floating Visitor Centre with a view to attracting the lucrative boater “rendez-vous” market. Growth in the number of boater ‘rendez-vous’ was been steady, and the project has been welcomed as a stimulus for economic activity in town.

The increase in larger scale marine tourism also yields benefits to other facilities and communities in the broader region, as these boaters will usually continue on after a rendez-vous to visit other areas. The new facilities have been featured in several boating publications and websites providing the community and region with an increased national and international profile. The 2013 visitor traffic numbers indicate an increase of 56% in visitor boat nights, with direct spending estimated at $367,000 and total impact on the community estimated at $660,000. To learn more, visit

Cowichan Bay Harbour Expansion

Historically, Cowichan Bay has been highly dependent upon the fishing and forestry sectors for local employment and economic growth.  The dramatic downturn of the salmon fishery has had a devastating effect on employment and led to the current economic diversification strategy targeting tourism.

Upgrades and expansion of the harbour resulted in 840 feet of tie up space for transient visitors and new deep water moorage for larger recreational vessels, significantly increasing the number of visitor nights to the region resulting in increased economic activity for local business. The increased moorage space has also resulted in the expansion of the annual Prawn Festival, an increase in direct fish sales to the public and the new signage has attracted more foot traffic to the facility adding to the unique attractions of Cowichan Bay. To learn more, visit