A Message from Tofino

English: View looking west from the summit of ...

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia


Feb 25 2012

I had a lovely conversation with the people at Tourism Tofino. They seemed grateful to hear a different perspective – one that they did not seem to be expecting. It was said that they had not encountered many formal complaints.

That didn’t surprise me. I myself would have never thought to complain after being mistreated by a shop owner or employee – I wouldn’t have even known who to complain to – (though I do now!).

As it turns out they actually have an ‘Ambassador Program‘ in place and it seems that they are doing everything they can to ensure that the business owners of Tofino DO appreciate their visitors.

Though it doesn’t change my last (or previous) experience(s), it does make me very happy to see that Tourism Tofino is ‘on top’ of the issue, and interested in how their little community is perceived. It even seems like they are trying to actively do something about it.

What more can be asked? I am satisfied.

They offered to have us out for dinner and storytelling – a chance to have a positive Tofino experience, and asked when we would next visit. As terribly lovely as the offer is, as my husband so eloquently put – without hotels and ferries covered (min $500 & that doesn’t include meals) – it will be at least a year before we even get to Vancouver Island. It is too expensive, and too far to go for a meal, as generous as the offer is.

We don’t like to do a location twice unless it really moves us – there are so many places in the world to see. Obviously Tofino had a hold on me for a long time, as I have made many repeat visits.

So, (un?)fortunately for Tofino, it will be a long time before we re-visit (if I can convince the husband at all!). Which means a long time before Tofino gets a chance for a new review on THR.

Until then, know that I have found more people who love and care about Tofino and its future. People that work very hard for the continued growth and betterment of the community. It is a beautiful place with beautiful people living in it.

Of course not everybody is pleasant all the time, so if you happen to have a similar unpleasant experience when visiting, why not head to the Tourist Centre and let them know? It helps them to understand how their community is functioning, and whether or not it is meeting the needs of tourists. They also have great info if you are looking to plan your visit.

I will certainly contact the lovely people at the Tourism Centre before my next visit. Who knows, we might even make it back in time for our meal!

From Feb 22, 2013

I was pleasantly surprised to receive a message from Tourism Tofino recently, regarding my post about our latest epic, unfriendly tour;

‘Sorry to hear your last experience wasn’t all it could have been. We at Tourism Tofino would love to talk to you more about it. Please contact us…’

It will be interesting to hear what they have to say, and I will (obviously!) keep you informed about the outcome. My article on Tofino contains one of my first negative reviews.

When I read the post to my husband (who does NOT follow the Habitual Runaway – ‘I live it why would I read it?’, he says), he pointed out that he disagreed with my interpretation of the final statement of the store clerk (owner, I suspect).

What I heard;

“I close when I want to, and as of right now – I am closed.”

What my husband heard (and always hears!);

“I blah (unintelligible, cranky unintelligible), blah blah closed.”

Either way, his tone was irritated – and he kicked us out of his store when he was supposed to be open. I don’t think it would be the worst thing if some Tofino shop owners re-evaluated and (re)understood their significance to guests.

The store we visited is by no means the only ‘culprit’, so I have removed any actual reference to it. I am not interested in damaging anyones livelihood. This is a general issue in Tofino, and they shouldn’t have to take the bulk of the blame.

Perhaps just a reminder of how important it is to value customers and tourists. A reminder of the long drive (and expensive ferry, hotels, food, time off work etc.) that most people take to get there. A reminder that it is primarily tourism that enables their isolated, unique lifestyle.

A reminder that each and every one of them (shop owners and service providers particularly) are ambassadors to beautiful Tofino, and their behaviour matters – and affects people!

We arrived excited and left upset. We had money to spend, and intention to spend it (and not just on magnets!) – but we were driven out of Tofino without getting a coffee or even filling up on gas.

Many times (14 that I can remember since 1994) I have taken friends, family, acquaintances and even employers on the long drive to Tofino, often times coming all the way from Ontario (where I lived until somewhat recently) – being proud of the incredible diversity and beauty of Canada – being excited to show off this seldom travelled corner of the world.

Following my 3rd or 4th visit, my tour started to include a disclaimer about ‘ignoring’ the potential unfriendliness of locals, and focussing on the overwhelming beauty of everything else.

After my post, I entered into a discussion with a few friends, family members and acquaintances. A surprising number of negative experiences came out in our conversations. I am sure that is not the reputation Tofino wants to have – or even deserves.

I know there are many people working very hard to make positive things happen in the small ocean side community. ‘Surf Sister Surf School‘ got a few great reviews, and so did some of the museums, galleries – and of course the coffee shop.

And as I mentioned, Tofino is incredibly naturally beautiful, and worth visiting for that reason alone.

I do hope that my negative review will bring a positive outcome. Perhaps there will be a reminder – an active shift to change perceptions. It wouldn’t take much to make that shift – a bit more smiling would suffice!

My husband says he will never go back – but I know that isn’t true!

Did you follow this tour? If you want to catch up just head to the ‘Vancouver Island‘ section. To see more photos, head to the Habitual Runaway on Facebook.

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12 responses to “A Message from Tofino

  1. Pingback: Inspired | Harvesting Hecate·

  2. I don’t remember having any issues in Tofino, but we were staying in Ucluelet and just drove in to Tofino during the day. (Or maybe Tofino has gotten worse — I haven’t been there in over 10 years.)


    • Oh I am happy to hear that you enjoyed your tour. My fingers are crossed for Tofino – it is really a lovely place – and there are some really good people there….


  3. A couple thoughts: how great that your blog is wide reaching and influential enough to have a tourism commission want to show a different view. Congrats! As one who worked on tourism for a small city in Virginia, it is incredibly frustrating to have a few grumpy business owners ruin the whole impact / impression. It happens all the time and tourism folks need to be aware of it. Nicely done! I’ll be watching for updates about this story!


    • You are so right about the impact of a few grumpy business owners ruining the impression for others – that is exactly what the lovely people at Tourism Tofino were worried about. They were great – I will be updating later today =). You are right that they were grateful to be made aware (I wasn’t sure how they would feel!) – they don’t get many formal complaints.

      I was certainly surprised to hear from the people at Tourism Tofino… & that’s what my Mom said about it too 😛 A nice perspective…

      Thank you!


  4. Just found this post – have to admit, I laughed out loud. Tofino is hard to define; they survive on tourism yet want to keep everyone out.(Perhaps a hangover from hippie days) Accommodation is near impossible to find and ridiculously over priced. Our solution is Ucluelet – just a hop, skip and jump down the highway – no problem to drive up the highway to Chesterman Beach, down to earth, and frankly – the way Tofino used to be.

    Next time you want to dazzle visitors with our majesty – try the Duffy Lake Road from Pemberton to Lillooet. From Lillooet drive back to Vancouver along the Fraser Canyon. 🙂


    • Oh yes, Tofino…haven’t been back, not in a hurry to go. I have been many, many times & have only ever had a good experience in neighbouring Ucluelet – which oddly has a totally different vibe, doesn’t it? Next time I go, I won’t even bother with Tofino – Ucluelet only. Good advice!

      We did take the Duffy Lake Rd actually – did a loop. We have done that tour 1/2 a dozen times or so – here is one write up about it https://habitualrunaway.wordpress.com/summer-to-winter-tour/

      You are right – the drive is incredible (dazzle indeed!) and varied – we went from blazing heat to snow doing that loop! Crazy! 😀


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