The city of Castlegar has been invited to be a part of the West Kootenay division of the BC Tourism Innovation Lab, which is offering grants and mentorships to help entrepreneurs in the tourism industry either get their endeavours off the ground or level up their current ones.

The Innovation Lab is calling it their “Spark” program and it’s like a tourism-based Dragon’s Den, the popular CBC reality show in which People with business propositions approach funders with their ideas and hope one of the “dragons” gives them thousands of dollars to see their ideas come to fruition. Spark applications are reviewed by a jury and then successful applicants are invited to partake in the finalists’ pitch session on September 15, 2021 at which point three winners will receive:

  • a 3-month mentorship with a tourism innovator, experienced operator, industry leader and/or sector expert
  • a $3,000 “Spark” grant to support tourism idea development activities
  • Access to a support network of tourism innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders
  • ​Ongoing guidance on other resources and support services provided by partners

Anyone with an interest in the tourism sector, or who has a small business already, or who works for a non-profit is invited to apply provided they are a minimum of 18 years of age and they live/work in the West Kootenay region. Ideas need to be submitted before August 11, 2021 at the Tourism Innovation Lab’s “West Kootenay” website here: and will need to address one or more of the following:

  • Enhances current tourism offerings
  • Creates new, high-quality tourism experiences
  • Addresses gaps in tourism products and services
  • Motivates travel, longer stays and repeat visits
  • Increases visitation and tourism spending

By “Tourism” the Lab is referring to “experiences, products and partnerships that motivate travel to your area by people living more than 40km away, across the provincial border or internationally, and provide engagement, participation, purchasing and/or travel related opportunities while they are visiting.” Some examples of sectors in which ideas could fall include:

  • wildlife guides
  • biking guides
  • bike rentals
  • hiking guides
  • heritage tours
  • dining experiences
  • transportation

Those are just a few ideas though. The sky’s the limit when it comes to capturing the jury members’ attention.

Even if an application doesn’t make the cut, the person applying is still invited to join the “Spark” community of tourism innovators, partners and supporters for special networking events, one-on-one’s, and development workshops. To apply, a short document (not more than 1,000 words) needs to be submitted with responses to each of the following 8 questions:

  1. Contact information (name, phone number, email, organization name, website).
  2. Tell us about yourself, your small business or non-profit organization.
  3. What’s your new tourism idea?
  4. How is your idea innovative or unique?
  5. What stage are you at with your idea?
  6. Who are your target market(s) and/or partner(s)?
  7. How would you utilize the “Spark” mentorship and grant funds if selected?
  8. What are your hoped for outcomes and impacts?

In addition to the application document, please include a file or link to a short (1 minute maximum) unedited, un-produced video introducing yourself, your small business, or non-profit organization, and your new tourism idea. For example, use your smartphone to take the video, and then upload it to a file sharing service like Dropbox or Google Docs or a publicly accessible video sharing website such as YouTube (if you don’t want other people to find it, mark it as unlisted) and include the file or link in your email with your application document.

For more information about the program and how to apply, visit