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Grebes and trails: Visitor Services report shows Salmon Arm successes, highlights

Coordinator provides update on how new model is working following closure of former Visitor Centre
Visitor Services Coordinator Sapphire Games provides council on Feb. 13 with 2022 Visitor Services Annual Report. (City of Salmon Arm image)

Trails and the bird sanctuary top the list of attractions visitors to Salmon Arm ask about.

Sapphire Games, Visitor Services coordinator, has noticed a pattern over the past two years. Questions in the spring tend to be about the foreshore trail, primarily the grebes. Visitors call to ask when the grebes will be dancing and doing their mating ritual.

In the summer, it’s trails, whether walking, hiking or biking. The new biking guides from Shuswap Tourism were really well-received, she said.

Games was presenting a year-end report on Visitor Services and its new three-mode delivery at council’s Feb. 13 meeting. The three modes include the bricks and mortar Visitor Centre at city hall; mobile outreach in the form of a distinctive van that transports the Street Team, their bicycles and a portable visitor centre to wherever they’re needed; and thirdly, digital outreach, which includes social media sites such as Live Chat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the city’s website.

“The goal of this initiative is to provide excellent visitor experiences, increase spend and stays to our lovely city and to support shoulder season travel and adventure,” she said.

Council applauded the success of the new system and Games’ positive energy, hard work and expertise.

All three methods of service delivery saw substantial percentage increases in visits and interactions in 2022 over 2021. In digital outreach, for example, Live Chat, which gives visitors the ability to contact Visitor Services 24/7 with inquiries through the city’s website or social media platform, saw an increase to 207 Live Chats in 2022 up from 114 in 2021 – or 82 per cent. Twitter was the only social media site that didn’t see an increase.

Games characterized the Visitor Centre in city hall as small but mighty, and noted paper maps remain a necessity.

“So many people, not just older generations but younger generations come in. They don’t want to look at their cell phones while they’re going out on trails, they want to disconnect from technology, or they don’t want to break rules by looking at a phone while they’re driving a car.”

Read more: COVID-19: Salmon Arm council to terminate contract for Visitor Information Centre

Read more: Salmon Arm to move visitor services to city hall, considers tourism revamp

She said Visitor Information Kiosks at Canoe Beach and Marine Peace Park are stocked weekly with brochures and guides. New in 2022, mobile deliveries were offered weekly to campgrounds and hotels. Many local businesses and shops were included. The wharf shack, a new outreach station at the wharf, is painted and ready for 2023.

A successful grant application for Indigenous learning projects will fund design and installation of land acknowledgment signs on the wharf shack, Visitor Centre and mobile outreach vehicle. Indigenous welcome signs will also be added to the Visitor Centre and the wharf, and an Indigenous experiences page will be added to the website.

Grants were also received from Canada Summer Jobs for three seasonal staff as well as a renewal with Destination BC for 2022 and 2023 Visitor Centre operations.

One recent highlight, said Games, was being invited as a presenter at Destination BC, the Visitor Services conference in Vancouver, to speak about Salmon Arm’s successful program with its digital and outreach strategies.

Plans for 2023 include the addition of a digital kiosk downtown as well as having Visitors Services, in some form, being included in the upcoming Shaw Centre Players Lounge at the arena, formerly the sporting goods store. Digital kiosks are described as a larger scale, stand-up model with a large touch screen that can be moved at the end of the day.

Games received accolades from council when she said she collaborates regularly with Salmon Arm Economic Development, Shuswap Tourism, Downtown Salmon Arm, TOTA - the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, and Destination BC.

Games asked for council’s help in encouraging businesses, accommodation providers and attractions to drop off brochures to help stock the Visitor Centre. She also requested suggestions for bookings for the Street Team.

Read more: Eye-catching van to spread word of what’s great about Salmon Arm

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Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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