Forty years of hometown tourists celebrated in Victoria

Annual Capital Region tourism promotion goes March 1 to 4

Visitors who take part in Tourist in Your Own Hometown this week can check out sights like this cod

Only two of the original “Big Six” tourist attractions that started Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown 40 years ago will be welcoming visitors this year.

Pacific Undersea Gardens and Miniature World are founding members of the venture, which invites locals to visit and get a tourist’s-eye view of the city.

The other four, Sealand of the Pacific, the Classic Car Museum, Fable Cottage and most recently, the Royal London Wax Museum, have all closed their doors over the last four decades.

The wax museum was a difficult loss, said Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown organizer Krista Larsen of the Victoria Attractions Association. However, there are more than a dozen new attractions waiting to show Victorians their stuff.

“This year is all somewhat new because we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of Be A Tourist in Your own Hometown and we’ve returned the event to its original format where most of the attractions are free,” said Larsen.

In recent years many attractions provided a discounted visit during the Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown event, but in its 40th year, Larsen said it was important to give new life to the old occasion.

“It was a concerted effort,” she said. “We began post-2011 Be a Tourist and looked at what had happened to our progression.” They looked at the long-term sustainability of the event and community interest.

“We did some door-knocking, some hand-holding and had our hand-out. Everyone hears about the deals and are impressed that these attractions agreed to free admissions,” she said.

Besides Pacific Undersea Gardens and Miniature World, a $10 passport allows visitors admission to such local attractions as Butchart Gardens, Maritime Museum of British Columbia, Victoria Butterfly Gardens and Fort Rodd Hill.

Other freebies include city tours by ITT Wilsons/Wilsons Transportation, harbour tours by Victoria Harbour Ferries and dozens of other discounts that can be downloaded online to go along with the free admissions.

“It’s so phenomenal. Be a Tourist has been entertaining three generations of Victorians,” said Larsen.

“Our ambassadors meet people who say they came with their grandmother when they were children and now they’re bringing their own children or grandchildren.”

Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown runs tomorrow (March 1) through Sunday.

Tickets are available at Tourism Victoria’s Visitor Information Centre, Thrifty Foods and a variety of other locations.

For more information go to attractionsvictoria.com. The website also features more discounts.

llavin@vicnews.com