Monday, July 4, 2016

'The potential is unlimited': Cariboo readies ghost town to draw Chinese tourists [mobs]

'The potential is unlimited': Cariboo readies ghost town to draw Chinese tourists

Authentic stagecoaches ride up the streets of Barkerville every half-hour.
Authentic stagecoaches ride up the streets of Barkerville every half-hour.PHOTO BY HANDOUT
B.C.’s Cariboo region is looking to capitalize on the success of a recent travelling history exhibit that highlighted the contributions of Chinese immigrants in the 1800s to the Interior’s Gold Rush.
In the last week, the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association and a Metro Vancouver-based Chinese community group organized a tour of the area for about 30 community leaders and entrepreneurs. The hope, officials say, is to draw the attention of Chinese-Canadians and investors from the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.
“The potential is unlimited,” said Cariboo Regional District chairman Al Richmond, who hosted the group. “Of the visitors on the tour, most of them have lived in Metro Vancouver and have never travelled beyond Chilliwack or Hope. Some of these folks have lived here for 15 or 20 years, and they never realized there’s a diamond-in-the-rough in the Cariboo-Chilcotin.”
Chinese interest in the region spiked in 2013 after an exhibit entitled “Who Am I? Bridging the Pacific from Guangdong to Barkerville and back” toured through southern China, detailing the contributions of Chinese immigrants during the Gold Rush of the 1800s. Located about 90 kilometres east of Quesnel, Barkerville’s Chinatown predates B.C. joining Confederation in 1871.
Officials from the Barkerville Heritage Trust said the travelling exhibit generated so much interest that a number of local Chinese community groups donated $100,000 to the restoration of Barkerville’s historic graveyard, where many Chinese immigrants were buried.
“About four years ago, we had a chance to connect with consul-general Liu Fei, and she was really quite taken after her first visit to Barkerville,” Richmond said. “So we have been working on economic development and raising awareness among the Chinese community about Barkerville.”
Last week’s tour also showcased other Cariboo tourism activities, including hunting, fishing, camping, white-water rafting and a rodeo. Richmond said there were discussions about real estate, agriculture and other investment opportunities.
The mountain pine beetle infestation devastated the Cariboo region and led to a slowdown in the resource sector and the lumber industry.
“Our economy has been hard-hit,” Richmond said. “We want investors. We want to diversify our economy. And we are looking for partners to do that. I think the people of the Cariboo are looking for jobs and prosperity, and this (Chinese) group is one that can help us do that.”
Additional tours are already being planned, and not only with the Chinese community — Richmond noted a German group visited Barkerville on the same day as the Chinese.