Ed Nicholson and Naomi Nicholson cut the ribbon to Chims Guest House during a grand opening ceremony on July 11. (Submitted photo)
Port Alberni is now home to the first Indigenous-themed guest house in the Alberni Valley.
Naomi Nicholson from Secluded Wellness Centre, located on the Pacific Rim Highway near the Tseshaht Market, and her husband Ed Nicholson, have just completed the new guest house that features Aboriginal art and decor. The Nuu-chah-nulth-named one-bedroom Chims Guest House, meaning bear, is on the same property as the wellness centre.
“It really fits with the theme of the bears walking through here,” said Noami.
With a passion for First Nation business and tourism, Nicholson noticed a lack of Aboriginal-themed lodging in Port Alberni and wanted to bridge the gap. She said she wanted to showcase her culture and provide an Aboriginal experience for tourists.
“The idea in the beginning for an Indigenous guest house kind of just came about through doing workshops,” Nicholson said, who has a bachelor’s degree in tourism management. “I kind of just decided there’s not a specific Indigenous-themed guest house and there’s more Aboriginal businesses coming in so I decided, why don’t we make it an Airbnb rental?”
In First Nation culture, Nicholson said one of the greatest riches is being able to give somebody something, therefor she found it important to offer guests a tin of wild sockeye salmon caught by her husband, Ed, with each stay.
Nicholson hopes the guest house will fill a niche for people looking to have an Aboriginal experience while visiting the West Coast.
“One of the things that our Tseshaht members say is we need something to make people stop here,” she said.
She added that she’s been networking with other First Nation businesses to come up with package ideas for tourists.
“Maybe [tourists] on their way to Tofino can get a zipline and go stay at Tin Wis, or I’d like to partner with the Huu-ay-aht, where [guests] can stay [at Chims Guest House] and the next morning take the Francis Barkley to Bamfield and go take the Kiixin tour, so there’s a lot of opportunity for people to experience the culture,” Nicholson said.
She added that she’s also interested in coming up with packages to offer guests where they could come to the wellness centre for a massage or holistic health consultations.
Nicholson, who lives on the property with her husband, said she often travels for work and wanted to add everything to Chims Guest House she wished she had while staying in accommodations on the road.
“The thing with the culture is, it’s also about hosting, so when [guests] come they have a really nice place to stay,” she said. “There’s been a lot of thought put into how we created everything.”
There is also a spot next to the guest house that can accommodate an RV or trailer.
Daily and weekly bookings are now open to the public through Airbnb and the website.
“There’s a lot of aspects to [First Nation] culture - it’s not just the singing or the dancing - we’re always hosts, so we get to share our culture by hosting people here,” Nicholson said.
An opening celebration was held at the wellness centre and guest house on Wednesday, July 11. Nicholson said the day “went amazing.” Close to 50 people came out for the celebration.
“‘Ken Watts from Tseshaht said an acknowledgment from council, Trevor Little (Tseshaht) had words of encouragement and sang a song along with my Ahousaht elders Ray and Marie Samuel,” Nicholson said.