Charlie Cornfield tells the crowd Monday night that it’s important for council to let the professionals they’ve hired do the job they’re paid to do when it comes to promoting tourism. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror

Campbell River municipal election candidates address increasing and sustaining tourism

What do the candidates think should be the focus in terms of getting more visitor dollars flowing?

One of the questions posed at Monday evening’s all-candidates forum at the Tidemark Theatre surrounded the city’s role in promoting and sustaining tourism in the region.

With economic development and tourism being brought back under the purview of City Hall – and subsequently contracted to Destination Think – after the dissolution of the city’s former economic development organization, Rivercorp, attention now turns to how to not only sustain the current level of tourism dollars coming into the community, but actually increase it.

“One of the things we’re finding is that the MRDT (Municipal and Regional District Tax) that we get from the hotels is bringing in a substancial amount of money, so we’re able to re-invest back into that,” says Michele Babchuk, but says the challenge is getting people who come here to visit to want to come back for good and continue the community’s growth.

Colleen Evans pulled out the actual numbers surrounding the MRDT, saying it’s important for that money to be used effectively.

As the current council’s liason on the Tourism Advisory Committee, Evans says she has been “very excited to watch this unfold,” adding that while council’s projections were that the MRDT would bring in about $250,000 last year, but instead came in at $457,000.

“I think what we need to do is just support the model that is clearly working,” Evans says, “and make sure we leverage every opportunity we have to promote tourism throughout the year, with a real focus on the shoulder season to increase occupancy rates and just awareness of this incredible community that we have here.”

Allan Buxton says he thinks the disolution of Rivercorp and subsequent contracting of tourism promotion to Destination Think “was probably one of the smartest things the city has done in a long time,” adding he looks forward to seeing how the MRDT money is used to promote the community on the global stage.

RELATED: Interest high in final all-candidates forum

Charlie Cornfield says while it’s important for council to give direction and expect to see results, it’s best for the city to stay out of the way of the people they’ve tasked with doing the work.

“I think, for the first time ever, we actually hired tourism professionals to do the job,” Cornfield says. “I’ve got a background in tourism and used to work in the Ministry of Tourism, but I don’t intend on telling them how to do their job,” adding that because much of the reason people come here isn’t for the city itself, but for the nature that surrounds it, “we need to make sure that we’re in tune at the regional district level, the province and the feds to maintain the assets and resources that are beyond the direct control of the city.”

Kermit Dahl agrees that what people are coming for generally lies outside the borders of the city, adding that he would like to see an increase in the promotion of our natural areas – in particular, the Snowden trail system.

“Mountain biking tourism is particularly huge in places like Squamish and Whistler – because they’re doing a great job of promoting it – and we’ve got Strathcona park and other natural beauty that we can promote as part of a healthy lifestyle,” Dahl says. “I think we’re on the right track already, we just need to get behind that and make this stuff happen.”

Ron Kerr says he would like to see more focus put on Campbellton.

“An awful lot of people come in through that community, and I think the recreational facilities and amenities in the north end of the city are really the basis of our tourism industry,” Kerr says. “I think the north end of the city could really be attractive and they’re doing a good job, but with very limited resources. If there’s one thing I could see that would give visitors a better view of Campbell River it would be to put some money into Campbellton.”

Marlene Wright says she thinks it’s important for the city to make sure it has facilities that will draw people of all ages in – such as the all-weather field and the seawalk – and amenities that can be enjoyed by families.

You can watch Monday night’s forum in its entirety on the Mirror’s Facebook page at facebook.com/campbellrivermirror

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