The City of Nanaimo has released Tourism Vancouver Island’s plan to market the Harbour City. (News Bulletin file)

Local knowledge key to Nanaimo marketing campaign

Strategy to attract tourists to Harbour City budgeted to cost more than $400,000

Revealing the “real Nanaimo” is the theme of a new tourism marketing plan setting its sights on luring affluent couples to the Harbour City.

The city has released Tourism Vancouver Island’s more than $400,000 strategy to attract tourists to Nanaimo over the next year.

Tourism Vancouver Island has taken the reins of destination marketing and development as the city charts a new vision and entity for tourism. It’s looking to build on the work of Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation’s Tourism Nanaimo, with a theme of uncovering the “real Nanaimo” – information locals know about restaurants, hidden gems and Instagram-worthy locations, according to Karen Bannister, consumer marketing specialist for Tourism Nanaimo, who said they want to focus on that kind of storytelling on their website.

The largest spend will be an $80,000 digital media strategy to buy Google advertisements to capture people planning trips online, but it also plans to develop a new website, television and social media campaigns, and survey visitors’ experience. Its main target is affluent couples from B.C. and Alberta, aged 45 and up and travelling without children. It’s not to say other markets will be excluded, Bannister said, but that demographic is their largest.

A 2016 summer visitor profile by Tourism Nanaimo, for example, shows 63 per cent of visitors to Nanaimo were over the age of 40.

“I think what we are doing is building on past successes, recognizing that we need a healthy mix of traditional and digital marketing in today’s day and really trying to strike that balance between the both,” she said, adding they are hoping to also establish a brand identity for Nanaimo, positioned to be a gateway to the rest of Vancouver Island.

Leif Bogwald, owner of Vancouver Island Expeditions, doesn’t see anything that’s drastically different in the marketing plan, but that’s a good thing, he said.

“I don’t think we necessarily reinvent the wheel and all that. Building on past success is probably the biggest thing we need to do,” he said, adding he likes that there will be measurements, such as a conversation study, a focus on B.C. and Alberta and a database of photos stakeholders can use. “I have a budget to actually have a videographer or pay for photos so I think that’s actually a pretty key thing.”

A city press release on tourism shows there’s a new ambassador program of volunteers to greet visitors and there’s been 32 submissions to join a tourism advisory committee.

It was announced tourism would be separated from economic development last October and Bogwald says the committee probably won’t be formed for another month, meaning more than seven months of waiting to start planning. It’s “definitely frustrating,” said Bogwald, who hopes once it gets going, it goes quickly because tourism is busy in the summer.

“Overall I think things are going to go well this year, mostly thanks to the people that have sort of stepped up and spent the time, people like Dan Brady from the [Nanaimo Hospitality Association] … to make sure things didn’t fall through the cracks.”