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New tourist fee in Tofino helps fund theatre renovation

West Coast Sustainable Tourism Association hands $60,000 cheque to Tofino’s Clayoquot Sound Theatre
Tofino’s under-renovation Clayoquot Sound Theatre was full of smiles and cheers on April 23 as the West Coast Sustainable Tourism Association delivered a $60K cheque to complete the renovation’s budget. (Andrew Bailey photo)

A new tourist fee has its first beneficiary.

The West Coast Sustainable Tourism Association hand-delivered a $60,000 cheque to Tofino’s Clayoquot Sound Theatre last month to mark the first donation from a voluntary 1 per cent sustainability fee it launched in 2023.

“This was a surprise. I did not know my project was in their vision,” theatre manager Sophie L’Homme told the Westerly News at an April 23 celebration inside the theatre space.

“Not only is it a great donation for the theatre and means our budget is complete, but it’s also a recognition that all these very important figures and leaders in Tofino are believing in my project and what I do. So, it’s a double reward.”

The $60,000 donation means L’Homme’s massive, roughly $800,000, theatre renovation is now fully funded.

She said she first began visualizing a new theatre space in 2020 and expects the fruits of her immense efforts to unveil a safer, more accessible and flexible space this summer, with a grand opening set for July.

“This is a prime location in downtown Tofino that was not utilized to its maximum. The theatre had become too old, it was not safe anymore, it was not healthy and it really was not accessible,” she said. “It’s going to be a beautiful space and an inspiring space for the performing arts in Tofino that’s going to make people want to come back. It’s also going to be inspiring youth with this professional space.”

She said the new and improved theatre will have double the capacity of its predecessor, growing from a maximum crowd of 72 up to 150.

“That’s a game-changer in terms of who we can bring to town,” she said.

She added the theatre is a vital part of the community, adding alternative arts venues are mostly pubs or other establishments where alcohol is a driver

“They’re not accessible to everybody. They’re most of the time catered to more of a drinking crowd…There is no other place like this, a professional setting, that exists on the West Coast,” she said.

She added arts are important for any community’s vitality and health, adding a strong arts and culture scene can be a massive economic driver for Tofino outside of wilderness, beaches, surfing and restaurants.

“We want to really put the performing arts on the map also. You can come to Tofino and see very high professional arts,” she said.

She said her experience working on the project has been inspiring.

“It’s been life-changing. I didn’t know I had that in me. I never knew in my life that I would be renovating a theatre and an $800,000 project. I succeeded in that, so this is amazing,” she said. “I learned so much. It’s been a very, very nice experience and I’ve realized that I love doing this kind of thing, leading projects and making them happen.”

L’Homme said she has been passionate about Tofino’s theatre since moving to Tofino full-time in 2015.

“I fell in love with this place and so to give that love back to the theatre has been an amazing experience,” she said.

She added the community’s support of the project has been immense.

“I think this town, when you give a lot, it gives back to you. You’ve got to put the effort in. it’s not that easy. You have to show that you’re here to stay and that you really care. This community has been amazing for sure,” she said.

She added custom-made retractable risers are still in the works, so won’t be in place when the theatre reopens. The risers were paid for with a $248,000 grant from Heritage Canada and will arrive in October.

West Coast Sustainable Tourism Association president JJ Belanger told the Westerly that the association’s board chose the thatre project as its first beneficiary because of its importance to the community, adding the new space will offer a diverse range of activities.

“Sophie’s been working tirelessly on trying to get this renovation completed and, when we found out she was $60,000 short and it may take a much longer time, we felt that this was an important community initiative,” he said. “It’s just a massive overhaul of a very needed space in town.”

He explained the voluntary 1 per cent sustainability fee was launched last year with about seven tourist accommodations currently collecting it from guests.

The association collected about $300,000 in the fee’s first year and has pledged to dish out $250,000 of that to support local community projects and initiatives.

Belanger is also the general manager of Tofino’s Crystal Cove Beach Resort, which is among the group that collects the fee, and said tourists have been happy to pitch in to help the community they love.

“Tourism Tofino has been working on this since well before COVID about attracting the right kind of visitor to Tofino that’s respectful,” he said. “They’re coming here to really enjoy Tofino and they want to see this community thrive and be around for ages, decades, centuries…What we’re trying to do with this is to collect the funds from the tourists that are coming here because a small town of 2,500 people cannot support what is required when it comes to 10,000 tourists a day.”

He added that the visitors who have fallen in love with the community are happy to help keep their favourite destination humming.

“We need this town to survive and it’s been a struggle, especially with lack of housing and things like that. It’s been a tough go, so now I think the tourists understand and they’re supporting us because they want to come back here. They want this community to thrive,” he said.

“They take a lot of pride in Tofino. It’s the gem of the Island for sure.”

He added the society’s board meets monthly and will review any applications for funding it receives, adding the amount of funding available is expected to grow as more businesses sign on to the voluntary sustainability fee.

“The conversations that we’re having now are very encouraging and I think we’ll see more properties come on. Our goal, ultimately, is to have all businesses on board. If we could collect that one percent off a restaurant bill or a whale watching excursion as well as accommodation, we could potentially have $1 million a year to spend or more,” he said. “We’re very excited about it.”

More information about the association and sustainability fee can be found at

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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