Christina Lake didn’t go too far when hiring a new tourist manager. Ron Hooge has lived at the lake for 18 months after living in Grand Forks for over 38 years.
Although it may seem a tourist manager for such a beautiful and popular destination as Christina Lake might be somewhat superfluous, Hooge told the Gazette he will be plenty busy in his new role.
“I owned five business in the area before retiring,” he said. “I came out of retirement recently to take on the position of tourist manager.”
Hooge has received several accolades through the years. In fact, he and his wife received the City of Grand Forks inaugural citizens of the year award.
“It was a unique honour for us,” he said.
Hooge said he was offered the position after joking about how he wanted his grandson’s job at the tourism centre because the grandson was leaving in December.
“I made a joke that I would love his job but I’m too old because it’s a grant position for students,” he said. “I left it at that. Then I got a call a little bit later from someone who had heard about that, telling me to come down for an interview.”
Hooge was officially hired at tourism manager on Nov. 3. The following day he was off to Vancouver for the Visitor Centre Networking conference put on by Destination BC where he got to join 114 tourist managers from all over B.C.
“The conference was really great,” he said. “It informed us about the direction Destination BC is going. It was a very enlightening day there to be with those managers. It was a good introduction to what I’ll be doing.”
Hooge will work for the Christina Lake Tourism Society in close conjunction with the Christina Gateway Society.
“Right now I’m developing an inside business plan for a gift shop at the Welcome Centre,” he said. “We’re adding, if it works out well, souvenirs of Christina Lake at the gift shop. We have lots of artisans and things made locally at the gallery in town.
“Last year, we had 20,000 visitors. A lot are international and from the States. Many of them would like to have something to carry back in their suitcases. We’re hoping to get some little items.”
Hooge is also spearheading a membership to get more Christina Lake businesses on board. He’ll also work as an ambassador for the Lake at various events.
“It’s easy to sell the Lake,” he said. “It’s a great place to relax and just let go and party and have a good time at the lake. That’s what we’re all about.”
Hooge said he has plenty of experience working in public relations. He added that he is happy to be in the position of tourist manager.
“After a good rest of a year and a half, it’s nice to be back,” he said.
Hooge said Christina Lake is working on ways to improve tourism and attract even more people to the Lake both as visitors and as potential residents.
“We’ve been developing our online service now quite extensively and doing our website on why you should come to the Lake,” he said. “We’ve got Winterfest coming (in January) and the great Homecoming event. They always say (Winterfest) is bigger and better than ever but that’s totally true. They’ve added some more things.”
Hooge has been hired to a half-time, year-to-year contract. He will work out of the Welcome Centre as well as his home depending on what is needed.
“It’s exciting to be in this position,” he said, although he admits he’s still learning the ropes. “I’ve promoted Grand Forks for a long time so I’m certainly (ready to help promote Christina Lake). If 20,000 people are driving to the Lake to get away from the pressures of life for that ultimate holiday, then we’re already living in holidayland. It’s beautiful.”