The visitor centre for the Comox Valley. Photo by Mike Chouinard

The visitor centre for the Comox Valley. Photo by Mike Chouinard

Tourism group marks new relationship with Comox Valley

“We believe in the regional model for the Comox Valley … everybody should be working together.”

It’s been a tough year for the tourism business.

The organization that oversees the sector in the region is optimistic though about its new relationship with the Comox Valley.

Tourism Vancouver Island (TVI) had the chance to introduce itself to one of the local municipal governments at a recent meeting. The organization was announced as the new operator for the visitor centre in the Comox Valley earlier this year. The centre had been run by the Comox Valley Economic Development Society (CVEDS), and the change includes some staff shifting over to TVI in the centre.

RELATED STORY: Tourism Vancouver Island taking over management of Vancouver Island Visitor Centre

Tourism Vancouver Island CEO Anthony Everett and its head of marketing, Karen Bannister, provided an overview of the organization via Zoom to Cumberland’s council. The organization is based out of Nanaimo and has been running for about 60 years.

“We work with communities such as yours up and down the island,” Everett said. “We believe in the regional model for the Comox Valley, and we think everybody should be working together.”

This includes collaborating with Indigenous communities on the island, he said, adding they have an Indigenous specialist on their team, with another joining soon. He elaborated on some of the core values for the organization such as partnerships and flexibility in meeting local businesses’ needs and challenges, especially in the tourism sector during this last year of COVID.

“It is geared towards helping businesses through this pandemic,” he said.

Its funders include Western Economic Diversification Canada, the provincial government and the Island Coastal Economic Trust.

Bannister elaborated further on the importance of helping businesses.

“Without them, there is no tourism,” she said.

She elaborated on sustainability, another of its core values, and said Cumberland, with its popular trail systems, is already aware of the importance of sustainable tourism. One of the issues during the discussion was the heavy traffic on local trails last summer as people visited from around the region.

Some of the projects for TVI include increasing tourism’s profile through social media and putting staff through the Destination BC visitor service training program. Upcoming work includes a stakeholder survey and a Discover the Comox Valley guide.

Cumberland has been working on economic development on its own, outside of CVEDS, which was covering the rest of the region. The regional district though has announced it will be going in a different direction from CVEDS later this year.

RELATED STORY: Comox Valley Regional District board votes to terminate CVEDS contract

RELATED STORY: Comox Valley Regional District’s CVEDS split leaves questions for some

With Cumberland working on its own, there was some question among council members about whether it would cost them to be involved with TVI because the village has not been part of CVEDS’ contract. Everett responded that there would be no cost to take advantage of the organization’s work.

“This is really a positive change for us,” Coun. Vickey Brown said. “I think it’ll go a long way to helping bring the three communities and the outlying areas together in a common destination marketing strategy.”

Everett had one request, which was for all parties to work together, beyond the politicization of tourism.

“We just need to start it on the right path,” he said.

Mayor Leslie Baird was pleased the presenters included pictures of Cumberland, noting that Bannister had already been working with the village’s economic development officer.

“I’m absolutely amazed at the amount of work you’ve done in three months,” she said. “I look forward to working with you.”

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