The Salmon Arm Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Centre have been a busy place in the past year.
Chamber manager Corryn Grayston was in council chambers on March 27 to bring Mayor Nancy Cooper and councillors up to snuff on chamber business and events over the past year.
There were 15,429 visits to the Visitor Centre in 2016, up by 689 from 2015, but off the 2014 yearly total of 17,359 by close to 2,000.
After sharing some of the event highlights of 2016, Grayston launched into an account of 2017 event highlights, including a membership survey, giving the 323 chamber members the opportunity to say what they want to do over the next three years.
As well, Grayston announced that chamber will host an all-candidates forum for the provincial election from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Monday, April 24.
Grayston described 2016 projects in which the chamber was involved, including work with Shuswap Tourism, the Salty Dog Festival, the Selkirk Express and the mobile visitor centre, which operated in July and August, a community yoga event and research and data gathering regarding accessible tourism for those with physical limitations.
The Salmon Arm Visitor Centre saw a surplus of $9,315, money which will be held in reserve for the balance of chamber’s contract ending Dec. 31, 2018.
Following comments from other business operators in the building, visitor centre hours from March to June will increase over 2016 hours by 90 minutes to 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and two additional hours in September and October from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Grayston was happy to report that several people who came to the area for specific events expressed surprise that they discovered there is so much to do in the area.
“They can’t believe how much there is to do and they often extend their stay or come back,” she said, noting relocation requests were up as well.
In 2016, we had 257 requests between March and September; they want to know what it would take to move here.” she said, acknowledging chamber has no stats on who, if anyone, has moved to the area following a request for information.
In response to a request about demographics by Coun. Alan Harrison, Grayston said many of the requests were made by Vancouver, Alberta and Northern B.C. families who see Salmon Arm as a safe place to raise their kids, as well as retired or semi-retired folks who work from home.
The most-demanded amenities are ones Salmon Arm can easily provide – active walking groups, arts, mountain biking and group activities.
“We don’t need to draw people,” said Grayston. “We just need to employ them.”
In the meantime, Grayston advised council she is excited by the prospect of a May 2018 foot race that will run from Sicamous through Larch Hills to Salmon Arm.