The first plan for the city from the new Visitor Services Strategy for Salmon Arm will be to move visitor services to city hall. (File photo)

The first plan for the city from the new Visitor Services Strategy for Salmon Arm will be to move visitor services to city hall. (File photo)

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

Consultant’s visitor services strategy points to need for recognition of tourism’s importance

The City of Salmon Arm needs to rethink the way it handles tourism, beginning with a short-term plan to move the physical site of visitor services to city hall.

In keeping with recommendations from consultant Margaret McCormick in her Visitor Services Strategy, city council voted unanimously on Monday, Jan. 25 to move the ‘bricks and mortar’ of visitor services to city hall for the upcoming tourist season, at minimum.

With more than 30 years’ experience with B.C.’s tourism authority, McCormick presented a detailed report that drew compliments from council members, a few of them describing it as the best they’d seen. It determined that Salmon Arm and the Shuswap lack an overall tourism strategy.

McCormick noted that three groups have been providing tourism services to the city: Shuswap Tourism for destination marketing; Salmon Arm Economic Development dealing with the MRDT (Municipal & Regional District Tax Program) funds or the hotel tax; and the Salmon Arm Chamber of Commerce for visitor services. The city terminated the chamber’s contract to run the Visitor Centre in the old courthouse on Aug. 31, 2020, citing society’s shift to online marketing as well as the realities of the pandemic.

“You’re funding three different ones but your performance measures, your accountability and your decision-making is actually different for each,” McCormick said, noting that in this system unique to the Shuswap, the organizations have different mandates, different purposes and different roles.

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

Read more: B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

McCormick also found that “Salmon Arm does not identify the importance of tourism in its own overall corporate strategy or actions…”

Coun. Kevin Flynn said he would like to see tourism in the city’s strategic plan, and asked how big a part of economic development tourism should fill. McCormick estimated 25 per cent at a minimum, saying that would give it the attention it requires.

McCormick said the 13 stakeholders she interviewed as part of her research wanted some type of ‘bricks and mortar’ visitor centre, not just a virtual version.

Salmon Arm’s director of corporate services Erin Jackson said staff support the use of city hall.

“We see that there is ample parking, access to washrooms, and there would be no overhead required. That could happen regardless of who delivers the service. If the city delivers it, it makes sense, and if we partner, we could also make that work,” Jackson said. She noted staff would collaborate with agencies already providing services.

Read more: Shuswap tourism businesses brace for COVID-19’s effects on summer season

Read more: B.C. diverts more COVID-19 small business relief to tourism

McCormick recommended the city create a dedicated position to lead the strategy, someone with expertise in tourism, marketing, engagement with communities, digital strategies and staff management, preferably with a tourism program management education.

As well as the move to city hall, McCormick recommended having a mobile unit travel to places in the area where visitors are and where physical distancing is possible. She also suggested more digital engagement with visitors to provide accurate information and help them with trip planning. She emphasized the need to promote the shoulder season.

Another observation from McCormick was that more than 20 per cent of visitor centre inquiries were about the outdoors and trails in the area.

“As the sole digital supplier of this information, your Shuswap Trail Alliance website is in dire need of attention.”

She welcomed the news that council has allocated money in the city’s 2021 budget for the website.

Read more: B.C. tourism calls for ‘bridge’relief to recover from COVID-19

Read more: Secwepemc Lakes Tourism projects look to support Indigenous youth, entrepreneurs

Couns. Debbie Cannon and Chad Eliason serve on the tourism committee and support the initial plan to house visitor services at city hall, a factor that Mayor Alan Harrison said encouraged him to support it.

Eliason suggested: “We were super disjointed, and this is the first step, this isn’t the be-all and end-all, the first step in fixing our tourism and working with the partners that are delivering it…”

Cannon said she would like to see outreach kiosks as well as the services at city hall.

“I think what Margaret has delivered here is making us realize that tourism is more important than probably what some of us realize, how it affects every one of our small businesses… And instead of having it arm-length away, and not really taking ownership of it, this gives us the opportunity to bring it in, and even if it’s only just for one year, we can then see where it went and how we delivered it.”

McCormick, who lives in the Sorrento area, expressed her optimism.

“I believe strongly in tourism in the Shuswap and I think there is opportunity for significant growth. Actions this year are going to really set the stage for the tourism industry in the future.”


marthawickett@saobserver.net
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Salmon Arm councilTourism

Just Posted

Armstrong Regional Co-op board members Brett Kirkpatrick (left) and Robbie Hoyte (right) flank Scott John of the Okanagan Screen Arts Society. The co-op donated $2,500 to the society for its Save the Towne Theatre campaign. (ARC photo)
North Okanagan-Shuswap cooperative contributes to Vernon theatre campaign

Armstrong Regional Co-op kicks in $2,500 for Okanagan Screen Arts Society’s Save the Towne Theatre campaign

Sicamous RCMP Sgt. Murray McNeil and Cpl. Wade Fisher present Cody Krabbendam of Ranchero with an award for bravery on July 22, 2020. (Contributed)
Shuswap boy receives medal of bravery, scholarship for rescue at Sicamous beach

Last summer Cody Krabbendam jumped into the lake to save another boy from drowning

A young Sicamous Canada Day parade-goer is awed by a colourful float filled with beloved Disney characters during the July 1, 2020 community event. (File photo)
Editorial: Now is the time for Sicamous to shine

Shuswap community might be just what people who work from home are looking for

Greyhound Canada announced May 13 it was closing operations permanently after more than a century of operation. (Black Press file photo)
COLUMN: Goodbye to a never forgotten friend

Greyhound bus trips played a big role in columnist’s life

Someone or something is vandalizing birdhouses built and erected along Salmon Arm’s Foreshore Trail, much to the chagrin of a Shuswap biologist who looks after the houses. All but one of 32 along the trail are occupied. (Facebook photo)
Ongoing birdhouse vandalism rocks Shuswap trail, groups

Eight more boxes were destroyed Saturday, May 15

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

File photo (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Overturned kayak in Kelowna creek prompts police response

Kelowna RCMP is looking to speak with anyone who may know the individual associated with the kayak

Penticton city parks staff were busy this week using the beach grater to sift through sand, getting the shores ready for beach season. When it comes to beach clean up they are collecting run-off debris, pulling weeds and picking up litter. (Penticton photo)
Hottest day of the year, so far, in the South Okanagan

Penticton city park staff cleaned up the beaches getting ready for the season

This is what the glowing boulders look like at night at 28 Huth Ave. (Submitted)
PHOTOS: Glowing boulders popping up in the Okanagan

Local landscaper Brandon Messier also brought the Lost statue to its new home

Coldstream Fire Department is on-scene Sunday, May 16, battling a fire in a Matner Lane orchard just up the hill from the firehall on Aberdeen Road. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Okanagan fire crew tackles orchard blaze

Fire broke out just before 2 p.m. on Matner Lane, which is just up the hill from the Coldstream firehall on Aberdeen Road

A drug bust on Government Street in Duncan on Tuesday, March 30, led to a "substantial seizure" according to the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP. (File photo)
Search continues for diver who went missing in Okanagan Lake

Emergency crews continue to search for the 52-year-old who didn’t resurface Saturday

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

Most Read