British Columbia

Haida Gwaii 'staycation grants' help locals play tourist in their own backyard

The Gwaii Trust Society is giving grants of up to $250 to Haida Gwaii residents who want to explore the area and support local tourism operators who have been hit hard by COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Gwaii Trust Society hopes grants will help tourism operators hit hard by COVID-19 travel restrictions

Haida Gwaii residents can apply for grants of up to $250 to pay for local tours, accommodations and activities this summer to help stimulate the area's tourism economy. (Carolina de Ryk/CBC)

Haida Gwaii residents are being encouraged to explore their own beautiful backyard this summer and a local society is offering financial assistance to help.

The Gwaii Trust Society, which owns and manages a multi-million-dollar perpetual fund for the benefit of all the people of Haida Gwaii, will provide locals with up to $250 to put toward booking fees at locally-owned tourism businesses.

The Haida Gwaii Staycation Grant, as it's officially known, can be used to pay for fishing charters, tours, gear rentals (kayaks, surfboards, bikes, scooters) and accommodations.

"We are not sure if all our tourism operators will survive this season," said Carla Lutner, the society's chief operating officer, in an interview on Daybreak North. 

Rose Spit, the extreme northeast tip of Haida Gwaii. (Christine Cunningham)

Lutner said the impact of COVID-19 has been devastating for area tourism, which she said has become an increasingly important part of the local economy.

The grants are a way to help out, and also give residents a chance to see all that Haida Gwaii has to offer without any tourists around.

Lutner said travel restrictions preventing tourists from visiting the island could be in place until August. 

Governments on Haida Gwaii declared a state of emergency in March that limited travel to essential trips only for those going to and from the islands.

A state of emergency notice on the Haida Nation's website states non-resident and all leisure travel to Haida Gwaii is not permitted at this time. 

On its website, the Old Massett Village council says restrictions on visitors to Haida Gwaii will be in effect until the global pandemic is over.

"We hope that this will spur people to think about tourism on Haida Gwaii, think about staying locally and keeping that money within the local economy," said Lutner.

To qualify, tourism business must be locally owned and operated and in operation prior to March 2020.

Applications for the grants are now open and are available to both individuals and families. 

With files from Daybreak North