Nanaimo Tourism strategy outlines goals to increase visitors
The Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation’s new tourism strategic plan aims to grow the industry by supporting the efforts of local groups, bolstering community pride and collaborating with adjacent communities.
The corporation’s Tourism Leadership Committee introduced the new plan Wednesday, the result of months of research and collaboration with industry stakeholders and the community.
“It’s the foundation for the next two or three years,” said Sasha Angus, economic development CEO.
The plan, developed with help from Chemistry Consulting Group, lays out six strategic priorities and five underlying goals to achieve the group’s vision of making the area the destination of choice for visitors to enjoy a uniquely West Coast experience year-round.
The strategies are: actively encouraging/supporting festivals and events; developing new or augmented tourism attractions; improving communication and collaboration with local tourism operators; collaborating with adjacent communities; focusing tourism marketing on the Island, Lower Mainland and other identified key markets; and enhancing resident awareness of and support for tourism through a variety of pride-of-place and communications initiatives.
The plan looks at marketing an expanded geography – from Lantzville to south Cedar rather than simply the city itself – and calls for forming partnerships with other communities, said Jenn Houtby-Ferguson, media, marketing and communications specialist for the NEDC-run Tourism Nanaimo.
“In the past, it’s really been this us-and-them attitude,” she said.
Houtby-Ferguson said a joint marketing campaign with Sooke and Tofino will launch shortly, aimed at tourists from Washington and Oregon states.
Her presentation during the plan launch at the Coast Bastion Inn also emphasized the need for product development.
“We’ve been seen as the drive-through destination and we’re going to work hard to counter that,” said Houtby-Ferguson.
Angus said the organization has set aside about $125,000 to look at how it can support community partners to develop new or augment existing tourism attractions. For example, Tourism Nanaimo could provide money for a feasibility or marketing study, he said.
“It really depends on what the needs of the project are,” said Angus.
As for the community pride strategy, he said the idea is to encourage locals to do things here at home rather than travel elsewhere, as well as help market the area to friends and family and become ambassadors for the city.
Tourism Nanaimo will work with stakeholders to develop a pride of place campaign, including establishing a “tourist in your own town” program.
Dan Brady, Tourism Leadership Committee chairman, said the most important thing is that the strategy recognizes the destination needs to be developed.
Right now, people come because they have to for business reasons or sporting events and hotel occupancy rates in the city have not increased in the past 15 years – the rate has actually decreased for the past eight, he said.
“We need to give them a reason to want to come here,” said Brady.