Tourism Vernon is taking it to the streets.
Gone is the brick and mortar building in favour of hitting the streets and meeting tourists where they are.
City council has endorsed a recommendation from the tourism commission to move away from a physical visitor centre model and implement a mobile visitor services team that will provide support to visitors and residents looking for information around the community and online.
With the goal of meeting visitors where they are with what they need, Tourism Vernon’s visitor servicing team will hit the streets in May and spend time at popular locations such as Kin Beach, Ellison Provincial Park and throughout downtown Vernon.
The team will also interact with the public via phone, email and Facebook chat.
An enhanced digital presence, including website improvements and new digital maps, will round out the updated visitor servicing program.
The decision to close Vernon’s Visitor Information Centre is a response to an organically occurring change in technology and how people are finding new ways to source information.
Over the last several years, administration has been monitoring the steady decline in visitation to the centre.
In 2006, the centre had 25,429 visitors. In 2019, that figure dropped by 58% to 10,583 visitors. The centre did experience a slight uptick in usage in the summer of 2014 when centralized, but the downward trend has continued since then.
“Promoting Vernon and its tourism and hospitality businesses must be one of the top priorities as the sector moves toward recovery,” said Mayor Victor Cumming. “With fewer resources available, the Tourism Commission and City Council have carefully considered how our investments will be most effective and how we can reimagine our visitor servicing to showcase Vernon, meaningfully connect with visitors and residents, and continue offering exceptional customer service.”
On April 3, 2020, the centre was closed to the public following recommendations from health officials to cancel non-essential travel. Since that time, staff has continued to answer visitor calls and emails, while also researching and utilizing new platforms to reach potential visitors.
“More and more people are using online platforms to research and book their trip, and this behaviour seems to continue once they are here in Vernon,” Vernon Tourism co-ordinator Torrie Silverthorn said. “Visitors are relying heavily on the internet for their information, so we need to make sure we’re capturing that audience. Our mobile team will offer the in-person engagement so many people love, while at the same time ensuring we’re meeting visitors where they are, and not the other way around.”
The Tourism Vernon social media channels continue to be a hub of activity and inspiration for world-class, four-season recreation, relaxation and wellness opportunities across the Greater Vernon area.
“Several other communities across B.C. are using this same mobile approach,” economic development and tourism manager Kevin Poole said. “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 local businesses or attractions they didn’t know existed.”
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