“There’s a lot of confusion happening right now.”
That was the opinion of at least two councillors Monday night when the topic of the Campbell River Visitor Centre came up.
The city’s information services have been temporarily operating out of the Museum at Campbell River since January, with no concrete plans on the immediate horizon for its relocation. The Visitor Centre was relocated from its downtown location next to the Art Gallery while the city is in the midst of transitioning to a new tourism and economic development delivery model.
Council heard Monday night from City Manager Deborah Sargent that the museum has agreed to allow the city to continue running its tourism information services out of the museum through until at least April.
“The Campbell River Museum is very interested in continuing to work as a location for the Visitor Information Centre,” said Sargent, adding that the museum is reporting an increase in visitors because of the visitor services. “They are aware that the number of visitors coming through is expanding, on an almost daily basis.”
Sargent said the museum is even willing to extend its hours to accommodate the Visitor Information Centre.
But Coun. Marlene Wright said the situation is not ideal.
“There seems to be a lot of confusion right now in the community and with visitors,” Wright said, noting that people are being sent to the museum after arriving at the Art Gallery, where signage for the Visitor Centre is still up. The problem, she said, is that some tourists end up at the Maritime Heritage Centre instead of the museum. “There’s a lot of confusion happening right now and I think we have to be cognizant of that.”
Coun. Michele Babchuk agreed.
“One of the issues I’ve heard a lot is communication as to where our Visitor Information Centre is,” Babchuk said. “We’re really having to re-educate people as to where the Visitor Information Centre is.”
Council took steps to remedy the problem at its Monday night meeting, making a key move and hiring the consultant firm Destination Think to launch a new tourism strategy on behalf of the city.
Sargent said that one of the firm’s first orders of business will be to come up with a plan for the Visitor Centre, in consultation with the city’s Tourism Advisory Committee and city council.
“One of the first actions our consultant will be involved with will be working with our tourism advisory committee and other stakeholders as to the best location for the Visitor Centre moving forward,” Sargent said, adding that visitor services may not necessarily be run out of one site alone. “Many communities are moving from a single location to a more innovative, collaborative model,” Sargent said.
Coun. Colleen Evans noted that several communities have moved to satellite locations for visitor services.
“In many communities, visitor information is being distributed where visitors actually recreate and it’s very successful,” Evans said. “I’m glad to see that’s being explored.”
Mayor Andy Adams said he’s looking forward to a new chapter.
“I think this is a really exciting time and a significant change in the direction we’re taking,” Adams said. “Destination Think will bring some new energy and revitalizatin into our tourism model.”
Destination Think, which is based out of Vancouver, provides tourism services across Canada to places such as Vernon, Langley, Richmond, Banff, Lake Louise, Calgary and Montreal, as well as to locations in Australia, the U.K., Europe and the United States.
Destination Think was hired by council for a total annual expenditure of up to $600,000 for a period of three years with two one-year options.
Destination Think was one of several quality proposals received by the city to deliver its tourism model, in consultation with the city’s new Tourism Advisory Committee.
The new model also includes a new hotel tax which took effect on March 1. The city estimates that the new tax, generated through accommodation bookings, will bring in roughly $250,000 worth of revenue. The city intends to, in return, contribute $250,000 annually for local tourism marketing, programs and projects.