If people aren’t flocking to the visitor centre, Tourism Vernon will meet them at the beach, or on the street.
That’s the idea behind a shift away from Vernon’s brick-and-mortar Visitor Centre to a mobile team that will soon be in action.
City council has found the old brick and mortar tourism model to be out of date. The city has seen a steady decline in trips to the Visitor Information Centre (in 2019 there were 58 per cent fewer visits to the centre compared to 2006) and costs are outweighing revenues.
The centre saw a modest boost in visits in 2014, the year it was centralized, but the downward trend has continued ever since.
In response, Tourism Vernon is switching to a mobile visitor services team that will hit the streets in May, as endorsed by council on Monday, April 26.
The goal is to provide timely and effective support to tourists by meeting them where they are — in places like Kin Beach, Ellison Provincial Park and throughout the downtown. The team will also interact with people by phone, email and Facebook chat.
An enhanced digital presence will round out the new visitor servicing program in the form of website improvements and new digital maps.
Mayor Victor Cumming said promoting tourism and hospitality is a top priority as the sector recovers from the pandemic.
“With fewer resources available, the Tourism Commission and city council have carefully considered how our investments will be most effective and how we can re-imagine our visitor servicing to showcase Vernon, meaningfully connect with visitors and residents, and continue offering exceptional customer service,” Cumming said.
Tourism research indicates this mobile model is working better across the province and Canada, according to Claus Larsen, tourism commission chair and director of accommodation at Predator Ridge Resort.
“Travelers are searching more, booking more and buying more on mobile devices. They’re operating in a digital space already, so we are pivoting our efforts to offer a practical approach that helps connect visitors with local attractions and activities, and introduces area residents to new opportunities which match changes in the market,” Larsen said.
Kevin Poole, manager of economic development and tourism, said the switch follows the lead of several other B.C. communities that have found the mobile model useful — and not just for tourists.
“Not only have those communities seen positive results in connecting visitors to local attractions, but they’ve also seen an increased number of local residents beginning to explore their own communities and discovering local businesses or attractions they didn’t know existed,” Poole said.
“This in turn has helped residents become ambassadors for their communities and spread the good word of what’s available in their own backyard.”