On March 31 at 5:30 p.m. members of the community are invited to participate in a town hall meeting hosted over Zoom by Tourism Kimberley executive director John Hamilton and Mayor Don McCormick.
This is the first time Tourism Kimberley has hosted such a meeting, according to Hamilton, who said that as he’s fairly new here, he wants to get an idea of what people in town are thinking, particularly regarding COVID-19, the current restrictions and what will or should happen in the future if and when these restrictions begin to ease.
“I also want talk a little bit about some of the success I think that we’ve had in managing COVID with our hotels and attractions,” Hamilton told the Bulletin.
“We had this whole scare last March a year ago when COVID was coming and ‘what are we going to do’ and we were all in a state of panic. I think we’ve sort of learned to live with it much better and understand it and what we’ve done to keep people of Kimberley safe.”
Since the onset of the pandemic, Tourism Kimberley has followed the mandates of Destination BC, a crown corporation who gets follows the guidelines laid out by the government.
On their social media posts, Tourism Kimberley frequently reminds readers that non-essential travel should still be avoided, but the reality is Kimberley has had numerous visitors from out of town.
Hamilton said that their policy has always been to explain what the provincial health guidelines are and to advise people of the legalities and what non-essential travel means. Because the organization is unable to actually stop people from travelling as it is ultimately a personal choice, their course of action is to do what they can to keep our community safe.
“People are going to come because there’s no legal requirement to stop them,” Hamilton said. “So how can we ensure that we are maintaining safety and protocols at all times?
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve never heard of any visitor transmission of COVID or any cases that happened in Kimberley as a result of tourist visitation.”
Tourism Kimberley has been working closely with their accommodation partners to make sure they follow the rules in terms of only letting people come within their family bubbles and not accepting large groups, Hamilton said. They are also tasked with policing guests once they arrive to ensure that they came with the number of people they booked for; not showing up with ten people when they booked for two.
Hamilton said he’d like to not only get across this messaging, and hear the questions and concerns of the community, but also hopes this meeting will demonstrate that the tourism sector and the city are in alignment. Tourism Kimberley works closely with the city on all these things, so it’s a chance for the people of Kimberley to have a discussion with them both.
In terms of his impression of how people perceive tourism going into this meeting, Hamilton says he feels that if you divide any community up there’s going to be a percentage of people who don’t like tourism at all, who move to places like Kimberley to get away from large groups.
“Then on the other hand is people, well the majority of people, who understand how tourism provides a better quality of life for the citizens of Kimberley, in the sense that we would not be able to have restaurants and some of the shops if we didn’t have a vibrant tourist industry,” he said.
Moving forward, there’s still a great deal of uncertainty around what the post-pandemic tourism industry will look like and when a return to relative normality is realistic, but Hamilton said Tourism Kimberley has been working various scenarios out with the province, particularly regarding lifting the non-essential travel advisories.
“I think we’re going to see fairly shortly the province, probably after Easter, so when the spring break and Easter is finished, they might well be starting to lift some of the restrictions for travel within B.C.,” he explained. “But we don’t see inter-provincial travel being lifted probably until August, September is the sort of most likely case that Destination BC are pressing, it might be a little bit earlier in the best-case scenario.”
As always, they’ll be following the provincial guidelines dictating all of that, but a challenge for Kimberley, according to Hamilton, is the provincial government tends towards a “one-size-fits-all plan”.
“Being next to the Alberta border, it’s always a challenge to follow what they’re doing in Victoria, so that’s always going to be our issue in how to deal with that,” he said.
Hamilton hopes the community gets engaged with this open house to help assess all things pertaining to tourism in Kimberley, past, present and future.
To join the meeting, find the link on Tourism Kimberley’s social media channels.