A commercial shoot and lunch were on the agenda for the B.C. minister who paid a visit to Merritt on Jan. 31.

Minister of Tourism and Small Business Naomi Yamamoto met with representatives from the city’s businesses at the Coldwater Hotel before making a stop at the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame to shoot a commercial with Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart.

The commercial is known as a “staycation” video, and is designed to encourage British Columbians to spend their vacation dollars in their own backyard by touring B.C.

Yamamoto pointed out the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame and outdoor activities such as snowmobiling and snowshoeing are tourist attractions for staycationers to enjoy in Merritt.

She said there are activities here that perhaps some people from the Lower Mainland might not get to enjoy, but they can in the Interior.

“I’m hoping that we’ll get people from North Vancouver and Richmond to come up to Merritt, to come up to Kelowna, to come up to Penticton to do some travelling and actually spend some money in these communities,” Yamamoto said.

She said the staycation video will be posted on YouTube.

The date the video shot in Merritt will go online is still to be determined.

Yamamoto said tourism was a $13.5 billion industry in 2012 in B.C.

“The one thing we do know is that tourism creates jobs, and for communities like Merritt, they have great, great tourism assets — places where people can go and spend some money, stick around [and] enjoy themselves,” she said.

With Family Day on the horizon, Yamamoto said she’s encouraging Merrittonians and other British Columbians to enjoy the local sites their cities have to offer.

Yamamoto has been shooting these commercial spots at various locations in cities around B.C.

At the local luncheon, Yamamoto made a speech to representatives from businesses such as Community Futures, the Merritt Centennials and the City of Merritt.

Yamamoto also has a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #staycationbc to encourage support for local tourism and businesses. She asked the crowd to tweet Family Day long weekend plans in Merritt with the hashtag, which she and Tegart will share with their followers.

“We’ll show people that there are great things to do in Merritt on the long weekend, and if you’re going to do something, take a picture because there’s nothing like a picture to create enthusiasm for some of the things,” she said.

She said the provincial government funds Destination BC with about $50 million per year to attract tourists to Canada and British Columbia, and it’s up to locals to get them to check out their communities.

She also said the low Canadian dollar in comparison to the American greenback also helps tourism.

Yamamoto told the crowd 127,000 people in B.C. are employed in the tourism industry.

“That’s one in every 15 jobs,” she said.

She also said there are about 18,000 tourism businesses in B.C., 16,000 of which are defined as small businesses.