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Happy Birthday, Wells Gray Tours!

We’re thrilled to be celebrating our 49th anniversary! Since we couldn’t celebrate in person this year, we recently invited our customers, staff, family, and friends to join us for a virtual webinar celebration hosted by Owner and President, Roland Neave; Director of Product Development, Fraser Neave; and Marketing Director, Kerrie Niemeier. Roland shared a fantastic collection of stories and photos spanning all 49 years—from the very beginnings of the company to the present. It was fun to look back at where we came from and hear about some of our past destinations, long-time employees, favourite customers, and most memorable moments. If you missed the webinar you can view the recording here.

How it All Began…

In 1972 Pierre Trudeau was Prime Minister, bell bottoms were all the rage, a new Swedish pop band called ABBA was formed, Atari’s PONG became the world’s first commercial video game, and a young Roland Neave was a student at Cariboo College (now Thompson Rivers University) in Kamloops. Raised by a family who loved to travel, Roland had spent his childhood exploring, camping, and hiking across Western Canada. He had developed a deep love of wild places, especially nearby Wells Gray Park. When he and his college friends learned of a plan by BC Hydro to build seven dams on the Clearwater river, they decided they needed to act quickly to prevent devastating changes to the park. The students offered bus tours of Wells Gray Park that summer, stopping at strategic viewpoints where they urged passengers to imagine how the valley would look when flooded by the dams. The strategy was very effective and succeeded in creating an uproar of protest. Within a year, the plan to dam the Clearwater River was quietly shelved.

Roland Neave (left) and Dan Broderick (right) with their first company vehicle

Buoyed by the success of that first summer, Roland and his friends continued to run tours to Wells Gray Park during their summer holidays from school until 1975, when they decided to expand their offerings with a 10-day tour of California. From there they moved on to offering tours to Death Valley and Reno (the hot destination at the time) while still offering year-round tours to Wells Gray Park and other local destinations. These early tours were very affordable with an average price of only $5 per day.

In 1977, we opened our first office on Lansdowne Street in downtown Kamloops (where Frankly Coffee is today) and the company grew quickly enough that we moved to our current Kamloops office location in 1983.

Since then Wells Gray Tours has gradually expanded our tour offerings to include destinations around the globe. With five office locations across the province we are now the largest outbound tour operator in BC.

Stopping on the Oregon Coast on our first tour to California in 1975
Roland (on the right) with one of our regular drivers, Dave Hickman (on the left)
One of our earliest brochures
Roland (on the left) with Joan and Ron of Canada West Coach Lines, who shared our first office space on Lansdowne Street.
Roland standing in our current Kamloops office during its construction in 1983

What’s Next?

In 2022 Wells Gray Tours will celebrate our 50th Anniversary. We always celebrate our milestone anniversaries in style with unique anniversary tours. We’re very excited to announce our plans for 2022 this fall, so stay tuned to find out more.

Roland cuts the cake on a previous anniversary tour

Thank you to the Neave family and all our wonderful clients for 49 years of travel adventures. With the world gradually re-opening, we’re looking forward to many future adventures and we hope you’ll join us!

See Where it All Began in Wells Gray Park

If you’d like to see where it all began, we continue to offer tours to Wells Gray Park each year. These tours are still guided by Roland, who remains THE expert on all things Wells Gray. Call us to get on our interested list for next year, as this tour always sells out immediately.

Roland and Anne taking in the view of the Clearwater River in Wells Gray Park
Our group in Wells Gray Park in 2020