The doors have shut to the public at Tourism Kamloops in Aberdeen, but the organization hopes its new strategy — in which it sends a mobile group out into the community to meet tourists — will bring a higher bang for its buck and even improve service.
Tourism Kamloops estimates the city welcomes two-million visitors annually, with about 1,500 “meaningful” interactions per year at the Visitor Centre across from Aberdeen Mall. Tourism Kamloops defines those types of interactions as visitors who attended and were connected to tourism-related experiences, overnight accommodations or otherwise.
“That’s a really small amount of visitors that we are engaging with and inspiring good experiences in the community,” Tourism Kamloops communications director Monica Dickinson said. “When we looked at the cost of those meaningful interactions, we were looking at about $120 per interaction to service those people. That’s expensive.”
Dickinson said a new Bold Street Team will include both paid staff and volunteers: one full-time staff member year-round and three seasonal, federally funded positions, as well as a team of volunteers to draw from, depending on the project.
The team will travel via a Tourism Kamloops branded Jeep to popular locations — downtown, Riverside Park, Kenna Cartwright Park, wineries and the BC Wildlife Park, for example — and events. Dickinson said the team will interact with people in the community, as opposed to being stationary at the Visitor Centre, and better involve locals.
Tourists who do not run into the team in the community, meanwhile, will be limited to what is available online. Dickinson said Tourism Kamloops has been shifting toward digital resources in recent years, including beefing up its website and managing in real-time social media.
“We know that the way that people are getting information, with regards to travel and travel experiences, changed greatly,” Dickinson said. “We know that many people are looking to online resources, so that’s why, in advance of making this shift, we’ve invested heavily into building our digital platforms.”
Signage that directs people to the Visitor Centre will be removed from highways and around the city.
If someone stops at the visitor centre, new signage on the front door will advise of the closure, refer them online and encourage use of the sani-station, dog run, electric charging stations and picnic tables, which will remain available at the location
The building will remain in use for Tourism Kamloops staff and marketing efforts. Dickinson said there will be no change to Tourism Kamloops’ budget as a result of the change. The budget is funded by taxes charged on overnight stays at hotels as well as a service agreement with the city (this year, it is $250,000 for operating costs and $113,500 for operating the Visitor Centre).
Tourism Kamloops launched in 2005 and took over the Visitor Centre from the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce in 2013, when the chamber moved downtown.