By Korie Marshall
A story in the Province last month and a quiet decision to close two Visitor Information Centres at YVR have many concerned that Destination BC may be considering closing the other provincial centres, including Mount Robson. But Shirley Bond, MLA for Prince George-Valemount, says the Visitor Centre at Mount Robson will continue to operate.
Destination BC is the province’s crown corporation for tourism and was formerly called Tourism BC. In early November it announced a new corporate strategy and a revitalized brand focusing on nature and the beauty and power of BC’s wilderness. Following that announcement Marsha Walden, president and CEO of Destination BC confirmed that two of the provincial information centres, both at the Vancouver international airport, will close in January. Walden denied that the province is considering closing five other visitor centres, but did not rule out that there may be changes to the way they operate.
“People from all over the world stop at Mount Robson, and if BC is trying to exist as a tourism destination, the provincial government is just shooting themselves in the foot by shutting it down,” said Terry Cinnamon in response to the suggestions of closure. “Wow, what an enormous step backwards if this where to ever happen.”
Cinnamon says his family’s summer tourism business only gets a portion of their clientele from the visitor centre, and the centre is not open in the winter to help with Cinnamon’s winter tourism business. But he is looking at the bigger picture. He says each province has something special to offer, and they should all have visitor information centres. “Why would you close a visitor centre at an airport?”
“Destination BC is consulting with local communities on how each of these facilities can better serve communities and the visitors to them,” said Bond in an email response to questions from the Goat last week. “People travel very differently than they did even a decade ago and we want to make sure Visitor services of the future meet the needs of tourists. That is why Destination BC will work with local communities to better understand how we can reach out to visitors where they are, to provide the information they need, and in the format they need it in.”
Clare Mason, spokesperson for Destination BC, says there is an MOU with BC Parks (who owns the building) for the operation of the Mount Robson visitor centre into 2016.
Mason says consultation started with a first session on Nov. 5th with representatives from over 70 centres from around the province, including three staff from the Valemount visitor centre (Adventure Management) and Glenn Mandziuk, CEO or the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association.
“Our staff is now working on the feedback from this session,” says Mason. “Once we have more details on the next steps of the consultation process we’ll be sharing them on our website and in our communications with industry.”
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According to Destination BC, tourism is BC’s third largest employer with just over 132,000 people employed in tourism-related businesses in 2013. The tourism industry also contributed $7.3 billion in GDP in 2013, a 2.1% increase over 2012, and so far 2014 has been a “banner year”.