City tourism function continues to take shape

City council will spend $576,000 on economic development stakeholders this year while the state of the city’s tourism and economic development functions are in transition.

At its Feb. 22 meeting, council approved $181,000 for the city’s economic development budget which will go towards funding for part-year salary and recruitment costs for a new economic development officer as well as a business plan for a city-wide hotel tax. The city’s economic development arm, Rivercorp, has been reduced to one director and the city’s economic development function will be moved in-house with the economic development officer working out of City Hall.

Council also allocated $330,000 to the Campbell River Economic Development Corporation to carry out the tourism services contract. The Campbell River Economic Development Corporation, a wholly-owned company of the city, has been given a one-year contract to manage the tourism function.  The city has put out a call for proposals from tourism specialists to identify the best model to carry out the city’s tourism function, which includes the pursuit of provincial approval for a local hotel tax. Ron Bowles, city general manager of corporate services, said that money for the tourism contract will go towards several initiatives.

They include operating the Visitor Information Centre, preparing and distributing the Visitor’s Guide, street team community outreach, two tourism conferences, and economic development for drop-in customers until the economic development officer is hired and in place.

The economic development corporation is also looking to implement a pop up tourism and ambassador program to attend public events and provide local information and collect data from tourists.

Ambassadors will also be used to provide tourist information in places such as the Elk Falls Suspension Bridge, Campbell River Airport, Canada Day Festival, Logger Sports, and others.

A partnership with Go Fish BC to market Campbell River’s sport fishing opportunities, as well as being a pilot showcase community with Ahoy BC, which hosts a mini-site linked to a marine tourism page on the Tourism Campbell River website, are also on the books.

Coun. Larry Samson said he was concerned the economic corporation was biting off more than it could chew, particularly in light of the transition period.

“Are we committing ourselves with these programs? Because it looks very ambitious and it looks like they’re going to have a full year,” Samson said.

City Manager Deborah Sargent said not all of the projects are new ones and that tourism staff are aware they’re only looking at a one-year budget and that things could change.

“The initiatives are a combination of ongoing initiatives, maintaining the Visitor Centre, and some are new initiatives started in 2016,” Sargent said. “

Staff are very aware we’re entering into a very important transition year and the initial projects for this year, many of them are improvements over what’s been done in the past.”

New this year, however, is $5,000 for improvements to the Visitor Information Centre.

“Staff of the CREDC (Campbell River Economic Development Corporation) have identified that the Visitor Centre is in need of some minor upgrades to the facility to modernize it to ensure future profitability in selling goods and providing service to tourists,” Bowles said.

Council also allocated $15,000 for a Creative Industries grant as well as $15,000 for an InFilm grant.  Both of those programs run out of the Enterprise Centre along with the tourism service and the former Rivercorp.