It is closing in on two months since the new provincial NDP government removed the tolls from the Golden Ears and Port Mann bridge crossings, and Tourism Langley is looking to build on the free trips across the Fraser River.
Acting executive director Mun Bagri said the elimination of the tolls has opened dialogue between Tourism Langley and neighbouring communities on the other side of the Golden Ears Bridge, as well as in Metro Vancouver.
Bagri said the removal of the tolls, “along with recognition of the match our tourism products (have) with the demographics of these communities has promoted positive conversations with our stakeholders in regards to connecting with these markets.”
“The removal of barriers, of various forms, can always benefit both visitation as well as partnership opportunities with our fellow Metro Vancouver destination marketers to promote the region and work together expand the reach of our campaigns, as travel between our stakeholders is now toll free,” Bagri added.
Businesses in communities like Maple Ridge, Coquitlam, Burnaby and Vancouver now can offer tours and transportation packages to visit our Tourism and accommodation providers with one less cost to factor in, Bagri noted.
“This is still in the early phases, but we are excited with the conversations that are beginning to happen and the new faces that are looking to come to the table to work together throughout all of Metro Vancouver,” he said.
Meanwhile, local business improvement associations (BIAs) say it’s too early to tell what kind of impact the toll removals have had, one way or the other.
Walnut Grove BIA executive co-ordinator Lorrie Lace said some Maple Ridge businesses are “looking to becoming members for the simple fact now that they can open up their businesses more to our area.”
Businesses in Maple Ridge want to make their presence known to potential shoppers in Langley, Lacey said.
The Walnut Grove BIA has a meeting coming up on Nov. 16, when members will discuss the new developments in Langley Township as well as other issues, such as tolls being taken off the local crossings.
“Our goal is to talk about whether or not people are seeing an increase in business with the toll being gone,” Lacey said. “At this point we all haven’t gotten together since the tolls (have been taken off the Golden Ears Bridge) so we haven’t had a chance to really discuss that.”
In Langley City, Downtown Langley Business Association executive director Teri James said “we’re definitely monitoring it.”
“I think it’s more impactful for the commuters than it is for shoppers,” James said. “We’re hoping to see an uptick.”
James said the City is “definitely” going to include Maple Ridge in all its Christmas promotions.
“There’s a market (there) now that there’s no tolls,” she said.
In Maple Ridge, that community’s Business Improvement Association’s executive director Ineke Boekhorst said the merchants there haven’t seen a noticeable difference in business to date.
“In my own personal (experience) I go more to Langley now, and I wasn’t before,” she said. “I don’t do a lot of shopping in Langley because I like shopping local.”
Boekhorst noted that while it’s been status quo amongst the Maple Ridge shopkeepers, they have noticed a lot of new faces in their stores, which is a possible indicator of customers from outside the city boundaries.