The City of Salmon Arm’s freshly painted Chevrolet van was ready to begin its mobile visitor centre duties on June 18, 2021. (File photo)

The City of Salmon Arm’s freshly painted Chevrolet van was ready to begin its mobile visitor centre duties on June 18, 2021. (File photo)

New Salmon Arm tourism strategy rolls out amid difficult summer

Mobile outreach team part of city’s new, multi-tiered approach

Despite the challenges that accompanied summer 2021, Salmon Arm council is pleased with the roll out of the city’s new tourism strategy.

In August 2020, the city’s visitor information centre, run by the chamber of commerce, closed its doors at the Old Courthouse building. This followed council’s decision not to renew the chamber’s contract, and instead pursue a different approach to city tourism services. The city hired a consultant to help explore what that would look like. In January of this year, city council received the consultant’s report, which included recommendations to move the “bricks and mortar” offerings (information pamphlets, maps, promotional materials, etc.) to city hall. Other parts of the resulting strategy included mobile outreach, comprised of a street team and the brightly coloured “mobile unit” minivan, as well as a digital outreach component utilizing such things as live chat, social media and visitor services QR codes.

At its Sept. 27 meeting, council received a report from visitor services co-ordinator Sapphire Games about how the first summer with the strategy went.

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

Read more: Salmon Arm Visitor Information Centre closed

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

Successes achieved over the summer, said Games, included the development of summer student training, positive feedback from community and businesses, positive evaluations completed by summer students, full bookings for outreach as well as designing the mobile outreach unit and getting the visitor centre up and running.

“Some of our challenges for 2021 include heat waves, COVID-19, we had the wildfires, new staff – it was a new program for us, we had no highway signage for our visitor centre, a new location for our visitor centre, travel restrictions and a reduced ability to market our area this year,” said Games.

Acknowledging those challenges, council appreciated the new multi-tiered approach and what has been achieved so far.

“I think it’s working,” said Coun. Louise Wallace Richmond of the strategy. “I’m grateful for the work that went into it; these things don’t happen by themselves and there’s a lot of positive energy behind it, and I think it was especially helpful for our tourism businesses to see the support out on the street for the work that they do.”

“I appreciate the work that’s been done to get us up and running,” commented Coun. Chad Eliason. “I think we are definitely the leader in visitor information in the Shuswap and I look forward to seeing what the next steps are.”

Looking ahead to 2022, Games hopes to have more staff and would like to see more events, increased marketing of the tourism program, the creation of Salmon Arm-specific content (videos, photos), completing the setup and design of the visitor centre, a rebuilding and fine tuning of the visitor centre website, developing more social media content and a strategy calendar for 2022, developing an ambassador and volunteer program, and perhaps coming up with Salmon Arm-specific merchandise for the visitor centre or the mobile unit.
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