Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce manager Tom Thomson (middle) with at last year's federal election all candidates meeting with Mountain FM news director Glenn Hicks (left) and Liberal candidate Shan Lavell.

Chamber backs effort to entice WestJet to West Kootenay

Tourism-based companies like Baldface and Whitewater often struggle with the unreliability of air transportation

The Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce is backing the City of Nelson’s decision to support a pitch for WestJet service to the West Kootenay Regional Airport.

“We certainly applaud the cities of Nelson and Castlegar in being pro-active in going after WestJet and seeing if we can get these folks to come out to this area,” said chamber executive director Tom Thomson.

Thomson echoed statements by Mayor John Dooley at a city council earlier this month where council voted to send a letter in support of the WestJet presentation.

“I think it’s important that we recognize that here is a company that is deciding to get into the regional airline business. They’re making a major investment into their own company and it’s a good opportunity for them to come in and capitalize on their investment. It’s a great opportunity for future economic development,” said Thomson.

Even though the service to the Castlegar airport is unreliable at times, Thomson said they are doing an exceptionally good job with what they have.

“But one of the things that has always been a detriment to developing extra business and getting business coming in here is reliable air transportation throughout certain times of the year,” he said.

Business people and tourism-based companies like Baldface and Whitewater often struggle with the unreliability of air transportation to the region, which can have a negative impact to their businesses.

“There are a number of individual consultants that work out of here and use Nelson as a base and they travel and do business all over Western Canada or even the rest of the world and they have a tough time getting in and out,” said Thomson. “A lot of the times I think they end up getting in their car and driving to Cranbrook or even to Kelowna to get a reliable flight in and out of the area. It adds extra time and travel to their business abilities.”

Thomson also shared his disappointment with the opposition to the presentation by councillors Candace Batycki and Donna Macdonald.

“I think it’s a bit disappointing and I understand where councillor Batycki is coming from and there are certainly environmental concerns in a lot of different areas,” he said. “I don’t know if saying that WestJet is something that we don’t want to have happen in the City of Nelson, I don’t think that that was in the best interests of the overall community.”

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