Tourism is booming in Castlegar. This according to a presentation delivered by the Chamber of Commerce’s Tammy Verigin-Burk and Anne Kaytor to city council monday.
The presentation highlighted the performance of the Castlegar visitor information centre through 2014.
Numbers were up across the board, barring the Doukhobor Discovery Centre and food/beverage queries, which saw a slight decline from 2013.
Most notable was the rise in inquiries for transportation and outdoor activities such as hiking and fishing.
Transportation saw an increase from 4,131 to 4,796 people and outdoors rose from 3,584 to 4,324.
“So many more people are exploring our area and it’s becoming so popular … It’s just endless opportunity,” said tourism supervisor Anne Kaytor.
Verigin-Burk, the Chamber’s executive director, reminded those in attendance that the numbers are only for those who entered the visitor centre with specific inquiries and the total number of tourists is likely more significant.
It’s not just direct tourism that the visitor centre assists with. 2014 was the second year it hosted counsellor training for visitor centres in the surrounding area.
“This is a very packed two day course,” Kaytor said. “It has map reading, exceeding customer service and problem solving. As you can imagine, people come in off the road and experience some difficulties getting lost.”
The course also covers sales and marketing and ways to keep people in the area after they visit.
Kaytor noted the course in Castlegar is becoming the hub for neighbouring areas to train their visitor centre counsellors. Four students from Nelson attended, along with two from each of Rossland, Trail and Castlegar.
“I’m happy to say everyone passed very well.”
Furthermore, the visitor centre was lucky enough to have two foreign students take part in what they do and assist those visiting Castlegar.
“We were approached by the Selkirk College for their international students to join us at the visitor centre,” Kaytor explained.
Centre staff accepted and two students, one from Japan and one from South Korea, worked a total of 16 hours alongside visitor centre staff to get a feel for the community and enhance their international experience.
Not entirely related to the visitor centre but related to tourism, Verigin-Burk showcased highlights of the year for the Chamber of Commerce.
Among them was Castlegar’s recognition on the Expedia travel site and having a hotel tax come to fruition.
“It actually started January 1 and we’ll see the benefits from that this year,” Burk said.
“For those who aren’t aware of it, it’s a two per cent tax that will be used to promote Castlegar, whether it’s tourists or people who come to stay for business or different events.”
In regards to the Expedia representation, Verigin-Burk explained the Chamber worked extensively, with the city and Expedia to bring someone in to promote Castlegar.
“We were quite thrilled to find out that in of all of BC only six communities were represented and we were up against some big cities,” she said.
The promotion is planned to be up for three years but the Chamber hopes to extend that when the time comes.
Through 2015 the visitor centre and Chamber of Commerce plan to keep growing Castlegar’s tourism secand are also looking for a new Chamber/visitor building, hopefully on the same lot.
The current building has foundation issues, leading to other problems including the degradation of their wheelchair ramp.
Verigin-Burk said they hope to gather some funds from grants and then engage in fundraising of their own.
The projected time frame for this to become reality is sometime in 2016.