The Birth of Tourism

In Victoria, progressive businessmen started to push for change – they knew that their success was dependent upon a healthy workforce.  Economic diversification was necessary to move society forward.

Due to the fast-growing Vancouver economy, in 1890 Victoria’s Board of Trade (known today as the Chamber of Commerce) started to focus attentions on advertising the city as a sought-after tourism destination, claiming an “equable climate and fine scenery.”

From the Gold Rush years through to the 1890s, Victoria had gained a reputation as a ‘beautiful’ city; however, it was not without flaws.  The James Bay Inlet (named after Sir James Douglas, and what we now call the Inner Harbor) consisted of tidal flats that went all the way back to St. Ann’s Academy.  These mud flats were used as a garbage dump and the whole place stunk to high heaven.  So much that the Parliament Buildings were purposefully built with the entrance facing away from the mud and stench: the original entrance to the building is at the back.

The decision to promote tourism as a key economic driver divided the local community: some key businessmen and community leaders became very vocal champions; while others opposed the idea citing concerns about the problems that came with bigger cities (crime, disease, prostitution, etc.).

Herbert Cuthbert would become perhaps the best/loudest advocate for social change in the City, focused on improving living conditions.  Born in England, Cuthbert arrived in Victoria in 1891, and was a successful businessman.  He had seen seaside towns in Britain gain prosperity by capitalizing on their ‘natural surroundings’ and advertising themselves as tourist destinations.  Seattle was also starting to see great increases in the value of businesses and residential properties as a result of growth in the city.  In 1900, Saint John’s, New Brunswick, reported $2.5 million from tourist revenue.

Cuthbert felt that Victoria was falling far short in its relative share of available tourism dollars.  He started a campaign for beautification projects and targeted advertising.