City of Nanaimo issues call for new management at Vancouver Island Conference Centre

NANAIMO – Expression of interest for conference centre part of a conversation on tourism in the Harbour City.

A piece of the puzzle for how tourism can be handled in Nanaimo could be found in a call for conference centre operators.

The City of Nanaimo is seeking expressions of interest on the Vancouver Island Conference Centre for venue management and visitor development services, as its contract with Atlific Hotels expires in March and a new vision for tourism is considered.

City chief administrative officer Tracy Samra used the EOI as an example in November as a process that will inform the one happening to come up with recommendations on how to deliver tourism.

City council has approved a transition plan for tourism, with Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation no longer in charge of attracting visitors.

The document, put out Dec. 9, is a way to short-list interested and qualified proponents and the city, though council and Samra want it to be as broad as possible to see what response the market provides, according to Kim Fowler, city chief sustainability officer.

There are four categories: conference centre operations and management; conference centre marketing services; tourism and visitor development; and destination marketing, which includes promoting area attractions, tourism and public events and increasing tourism visitors to the city.

It’s become fairly common in municipal functions for someone to operate a conference centre and handle marketing and tourism services, Fowler said, and the city, which owns the facility, has a responsibility to do its due diligence to figure out how to best operate it.

“It is an integral part of not only tourism, but business services within the city – it’s a key facility, it was intended to be built for that,” she said.  “It really is our responsibility to go out to the private sector and say in a broad enough sense, what services do you think you can provide, and do you have a better mouse trap, a different proposal than what we currently have?”

Philip Cooper, city communications manager, said the conference centre is one piece of the tourism conversation and because the city is putting out an EOI, it made sense to ask the question if organizations  can provide some ideas around how tourism can integrate with the conference centre.

Atlific Hotels and CBRE Hotels, which did a market and financial assessment study of the conference centre this year, won’t be excluded from the process. A procurement consultant will accept responses until 3 p.m. on Jan. 4.

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