Tourism Vernon could see 40% cut to budget due to COVID-19

New approach to help residents and visitors activate their adventures

Take a break from the slopes to discover the rich culture and diversity of Vernon. Michelle Beaudry photo, courtesy Tourism Vernon.

With tourism taking the hardest hit in 2020 due to COVID-19, Tourism Vernon is taking a new approach to help visitors and area residents activate their adventures in 2021.

Visitor services will be going mobile with an enhanced digital presence and a traveling promotion team to meet visitors where they are, with the information they need.

“We have learned a lot of valuable lessons over the last several months,” Mayor Victor Cumming said. “Including how resilient we are as a community, and how we need to – and can – adapt to frequently changing circumstances. Tourism and hospitality has been the most impacted sector in the North Okanagan from the COVID-19 pandemic. The changes we are making for the coming year are aimed at supporting the efforts of local tourism providers, with a focus on modern, agile marketing and promotion that can be adapted as necessary to meet the rapidly changing conditions.”

On April 3, 2020 the Vernon Visitor Information Centre was closed to the public, following recommendations from provincial health officials to cancel non-essential travel. Since that time, revenue sources that Tourism Vernon relies upon for operational purposes have declined significantly and the anticipated 2021 budget could be 40 per cent lower than previous years.

READ MORE: Latest COVID-19 travel advice another blow to B.C. tourism

“Promoting Vernon and its tourism and hospitality businesses must be one of the top priorities as the sector moves towards recovery,” said Cumming. “With fewer resources, the tourism commission and city council have carefully considered how our investments will be most effective next year, and how we can reimagine our visitor servicing to showcase Vernon, meaningfully connect with visitors and residents, and continue offering exceptional customer service.”

Council has approved the continued closure of the Visitor Information Centre throughout 2021, and the reallocation of $65,000 to go towards digital and mobile visitor servicing activities to offer more accessible information online, and more personal interactions within the community.

The funds will be used to enhance the Tourism Vernon website and launch a new mobile app and virtual map. A new on-location visitor servicing team will also be activated, traveling to a variety of popular Vernon locations throughout the spring and summer, to provide effective and timely support for visitors and residents looking for information.

Tourism Vernon social media channels continue to be a hub of activity and inspiration for world class four-season recreation, relaxation, reenergizing, and wellness opportunities across the Vernon area. Tourism Vernon uses these channels to showcase outstanding accommodations, food and beverage, attractions, and unique experiences in our area.

“The tourism research in British Columbia and across Canada has been clear,” tourism commission chair and Predator Ridge Resort’s director of accommodation Claus Larsen. “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.

Several other communities across B.C. are using this same mobile approach, according to economic development and tourism manager Kevin Poole.

“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 businesses or attractions they didn’t know existed. This in turn has helped residents increase their at-home enjoyment, and become ambassadors for their communities, spreading the good word of what’s available in their own backyard.

Following the 2021 summer season, Tourism Vernon will seek feedback from the tourism commission and local tourism providers about how to proceed with visitor servicing opportunities in 2022.

“The next 12 months will be a period of recovery,” Cumming said. “By refocusing our efforts on digital and mobile visitor servicing, and maximizing the resources we have available, we can adjust our activities quickly and efficiently to match an evolving situation to best support the local tourism and hospitality sector and our local economy. In 2021, we invite you to activate your adventure!”

READ MORE: More roundabouts coming to Vernon


@VernonNewsjennifer@vernonmorningstar.comLike us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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