Tourism Tofino plans to boost off-season traffic and hopes to improve tourist-resident relations by guiding visitors away from negatively impacting the local community and environment.
The town’s Destination Marketing Organization presented its tactical plan for 2023 during Nov. 8’s regular council meeting, highlighting a goal to achieve 69 per cent occupancy from October to May by 2027, a 10 per cent increase to 2019’s pre-COVID numbers.
“Our mission, or why we exist, is to deliver sustainable growth for our members that contributes economic and social benefits to our community. Our vision, or what we’re striving to achieve, is that Tofino is deeply respected and sought out for its transformative experience. That everything is connected, everything is one,” said Tourism Tofino marketing manager Samantha Fyleris.
She suggested that, along with increasing shoulder season traffic, Tourism Tofino also hopes to attract mid-week meetings and work retreats and will collaborate with industry partners to expand Tofino’s domestic and international exposure.
Manager of visitor and member services Jody Kirk said the DMO is also looking to increase its engagement with tourists and has set a goal of 70,000 visitor interactions a year by 2027, a 20 per cent increase on 2019’s numbers.
“These interactions provide us with the opportunity to influence visitors to see, do and spend more than they originally planned,” she said. “Each interaction provides our visitor services team with a chance to encourage deeper connections with the destination, for instance join a beach clean, explore culture and heritage, and engage with nature through wildlife (tours) and guided activities.”
She said these interactions will also help Tourism Tofino staff bring visitors up to speed on local bylaws around beach fires and off-leash dogs.
“Additionally, we educate peak season travellers about the benefits of non-peak travel and encourage them to return in the fall, winter or spring,” she said.
She added Tourism Tofino plans to continue improving its new visitor centre at Cox Bay with increased destination and First Nation education and interpretation as well as to feature more locally produced retail products.
“Our objectives are to improve visibility of cultural heritage and achieve a 20 per cent increase in retail revenue over 2021,” she said.
She said Tourism Tofino plans to create enhanced and new experiences for tourists by supporting the continued development of Indigenous led experiences and reinvigorating local festivals and events held outside the peak season.
Kirk added that the tactical plan includes reducing the negative impacts tourism is having on the community.
“The objective is to achieve an annual increase in visitor participation in environmental protection and regeneration activities offered by local organizations,” she said.
“We’ll continue to develop education approaches that encourage responsible travel and expected behaviour.”
Fyleris said Tourism Tofino expects to bring in approximately $2.5 million for 2023 with $2.3 million coming from the Municipal and Regional District Tax, formerly known as the additional hotel room tax, $182,000 from retail and other avenues and $50,000 from federal and provincial grants.
She explained that about $900,000 of those funds, 36 per cent, will be spent on destination marketing, $635,000 on visitor services, $538,000 on destination and product experience management and $436,000 on administration and overhead.
Coun. Duncan McMaster asked if Tourism Tofino had identified ways to enhance the Tofino experience for residents as well as visitors.
Kirk responded that, “So many things that are positive for visitors end up being positive for residents as well.”
Fyleris added that boosting local events would be “fantastic for local residents.”
McMaster pointed to Tourism Tofino’s expected $182,000 revenue from retail sales and asked whether some of those funds could go towards the district’s recreational offerings.
“I know that can’t be used for advertising, would there be any thought of donating that to recreation in the district? That would really enhance visitors’ and residents’ (experiences),” he said.
Fyleris said some of the past year’s retail revenue went to Tribal Park Allies and that Tourism Tofino is hoping to use a portion of the funds on a proposed scholarship for a local student.
Mayor Dan Law said he was happy to see marketing moving towards local values, environmental protection and visitor behaviour.
“Thanks for all your work this year. I felt like Tourism Tofino lent a strong hand in the feeling that everything went OK this year and we were able to weather the tourism season well,” he said.