Peter Hardie moved to Nanaimo from the United Kingdom to open a bed and breakfast with his wife Sue in 2008. The couple has lived in the city for more than five years and, despite health setback, business is thriving. In fact, Maple View Bed and Breakfast in Departure Bay was one of 650 businesses worldwide to win the Expedia Insider's Select award for 2013. Hardie hosts guests from all over the world and is a strong believer in Nanaimo's international tourism industry.
What drew you to Nanaimo and when did you arrive?
We arrived on Jan. 10, 2008. In 2004 when we were back in the U.K. deciding where we were going to move we weren't quite sure where. The focus was to get a place where Sue could operate a B&B. What drew us to the West Coast of Canada was back in 2004, I was on this random website and saw a B&B for sale in Victoria. I was thinking 'oh my god, look what you get for your money. Where is it? Victoria? Where's that?' Now, the initial European head says Canada equals snow.
And I hate snow. But we researched Vancouver Island and we looked at the temperate climate and we thought "this could be interesting." After consideration, we decided Nanaimo is where we wanted to be.
What challenges have you faced?
Just the normal business challenges. Also, when we first came over, Sue felt that people could come here and make it a destination, but the general population here have no contact with tourism. It's quite interesting with the B&B. I tell (local) people Vancouver Island is an international tourism destination and they have no clue. The biggest problem is that guests come back from sightseeing and they'll go, 'yeah it was great but where does everybody go after 7 in the evening?' Europeans are used to being in a town centre where it's alive until midnight. When you start looking through the eyes of your guests and listening to what they have to say, they see everything available here.
How are you integrating into the community and what do you bring to Nanaimo?
I think for me, the defining moment of knowing that this is our home, has been walking around the shops, walking around the corner and having someone say, 'hey Peter how's it going?' That's happened to me on a couple of occasions and has really made me feel like, 'this is where I live now.' We have made friends pretty easily and of course, the B&B helps us do that. I'm not one of those people that joins associations.
What we brought, we felt, was the understanding of international tourism and the benefits it brings and how it could be developed more if people got on board with it.
What is the most underrated thing in/about Nanaimo, from your point of view?
I really believe the downtown is the most underrated thing. I just wish more people would really get passionate about it. I've travelled extensively and I've been to a lot of cities and towns. You go downtown, and it's so nice and clean and just fantastic. The businesses down there are trying so hard to make things happen. That's the one area.
If you could make one change to Nanaimo, what would it be?
Perhaps it could believe in itself a bit more. It's the jewel in the crown of Vancouver Island, because it's central. I guess you live here for a while and all these amazing things about the city are drip fed to you. People hear about them and read about them and forget about it. Buta looking from a tourism perspective, I just wish more people would really believe in Nanaimo.
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