Penticton visitor centre in limbo

Penticton’s visitor centre doesn’t have a plan for a new home when construction of the new Cascade Casino is finished.

Penticton visitor centre in limbo

Penticton’s visitor centre, operated by Tourism Penticton, is the only one of the three groups currently housed in the building at Eckhardt Avenue and Vees Drive that doesn’t have a plan for a new home when construction of the new Cascade Casino is finished.

The Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce is looking to purchase their own building and the Wine Information Centre/VQA Wine Store, will have—according to concept drawings—a prime location as part of the new casino building.

Kelly Hopkins, executive director of Tourism Penticton, delivered a report Monday on the organization’s activities to Penticton City Council. It was a successful quarter, marked by the community’s successful hosting of the 2016 B.C. Winter Games, and other key initiatives like a snowbird campaign conducted in partnership with Summerland and Penticton’s economic development office. The idea of that campaign, which distributed 10,000 snowbird guides in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, was to encourage that demographic to consider Penticton as an alternative winter destination to travelling south of the border.

But while walk-in traffic in the visitor centre increased nine per cent in the first quarter, with an accompanying increase in retail sales, the overall trend shows decreasing traffic. In 2013, the count was 37,681, dropping to 30,817 in 2015.

“I think everyone in the room understands and knows that there is an overall industry trend to move away from bricks and mortar visitor centre style,” said Hopkins, noting that due to construction of the casino, Tourism Penticton and the visitor centre will be moving into temporary accommodations at the end of June.

“We are currently reviewing the current business model and exploring new opportunities and strategies of redirecting, including the new temporary space with the SOEC complex,” said Hopkins. “That gives us an opportunity to look at, in a smaller foot print, how do we go forward and create a reach to get outside of the bricks and mortar and get more of an engagement with people in the community.”

Hopkins said that doesn’t mean they will be doing away with a permanent physical location, but wasn’t able to say what the future  concept might be.

Hopkins said that doesn’t mean they will be doing away with a permanent physical location, but wasn’t able to say what the future  concept might be.

“I think that is a conversation that needs to be had once we have a new organization in place,” she said, referring to ongoing work with the Penticton Hospitality Association to create a new tourism marketing group. “From a bricks and mortar standpoint, there is definitely importance with having a presence within Penticton. What that looks like at this point is still to be determined.”

Tourism Penticton chair Diana Stirling said the group is caught up in a “perfect storm” of influences they are having to deal with at the same time. Besides working with the PHA, she said, they are losing their space, relocating and downsizing as the main tourism season begins.

“Visitor Centre traffic is down, that is a global trend,” said Stirling, adding there are many factors to consider. Co-location is an effective strategy, she said, but what will that look like in the future.

“Co-location is really important. Is the wine centre the best company or organization to do-locate with? So far, it has been fantastic for both parties, are there other places that we can do-locate with?” she asked, also questioning whether they weren’t relating to other interests by being co-located with the wine centre.

“We need to make sure what is best practices for us with visitor services,” she said. “It is something that we don’t have all the answers right now, but it is something we want to do with the new organization as well. Tourism Penticton shouldn’t be making that decision, the new organization needs to make that decision.”

 

 

Penticton Western News