By David F. Rooney
Revelstoke badly needs an up-to-date tourism strategy, says Chamber of Commerce Executive Director John Devitt.
“Our Tourism Development Strategy really needs to be updated and rewritten,” he said in an interview last week, adding that the old one, which was written in 2003, is already obsolete.
But a new Tourism Strategy is not something you just whistle up.
The Chamber is talking with Thompson Rivers University about assistance in rewriting the existing plan to recognize both the opportunities and the pitfalls of tourism development. It would like to have a draft in hand by December, Devitt said.
“There are a lot of things we could be doing,” he said. “There has been talk, on-again/off-again, about the need for a convention centre and an arts centre. We should look at those again. We also need to talk about Sunday openings. I don’t have any firm figures but anecdotally we hear that visitors are leaving town on the weekends because there is nothing happening downtown on Sundays.”
One suggestion that surfaced during a City Council meeting last week is the possibility of holding the Farmer’s Market on Sundays instead of Saturdays. That might induce businesses to stay open on Sundays to take advantage of the business possibilities and it might persuade visitors to stay over the entire weekend .
People who imagine that tourism must be down because we’re in a recession are very wrong.
The local tourism figures for June compiled by the Chamber show that tourism is actually up this year over last.
The Chamber’s most reliable figures are based on the number of visitors who drop by both its main office on Campbell Avenue and the Visitors’ Centre on Grizzly Plaza. Last month 558 people stopped by the main office, up from 283 in June 2008; 226 stayed at least one night in town, compared to 143 last year. That doesn’t seem like a lot of people but look at the numbers for the Visitors’ Centre on the plaza: 5,646 people last month, of whom 1,292 stayed at least one night. In June 2008, the centre welcomed 5,138 people of whom , 999 stayed at least one night in town. Those are significant increases.
The largest single group of visitors to the Grizzly Plaza office were Europeans — 1,255 last month, up from 1,134 in 2008. There were 746 visitors from British Columbia and Albertan up from 530 in 2008. Visitors from the U.S. and Mexico totaled 200 in June, up from 152 in June last year. Visitors from Asia amounted to 115 last month, up from 105 in June 2008.
Bringing people to Revelstoke is not a real problem, Devitt said. After all, this is beautiful and friendly community set in apicture-perfect landscape. If there are problems with local tourism it lies in ensuring that the visitors who come here find services and attractions available when they want them.
“We can market and get people to come but if everything is closed and there’s nothing to do here on a Sunday then I think it reflects poorly on us,” he said. “It’ also tends to drive them out of town on Sundays and that is not a very good return on Revelstoke’s marketing dollars.”