Conference centre operator notified contract with City of Nanaimo will not be renewed

NANAIMO – City to seek proposals for tourism and marketing services this month.

An agreement with Vancouver Island Conference Centre’s longtime operators will not be renewed next year, the city’s chief administrative officer announced Monday.

Atlific, which has managed the conference centre since before its 2008 opening, will not have its agreement renewed when it expires next spring, but is invited to bid on an expression of interest to provide a “fuller range of services” to the city, according to Tracy Samra.

The City of Nanaimo plans to issue an expression of interest this month, but while in the past the city may have asked companies if they wanted to run the conference centre, this time Samra said the city will ask for destination marketing, conference marketing and tourism services.

“We are not saying we want to combine [the three services]. We are letting the people out there, the professionals, the organizations, whoever, that do you want to step forward and provide conference management services,  conference marketing, tourism, destination marketing?” Samra said, who added the expression of interest will be worded so more than one party can step forward and make offers on combinations of services. “We’re going to see what’s out there that makes financial sense.”

The announcement of an expression of interest happened at a council meeting Monday, at the same time the city made public an in-camera decision to pull tourism from Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation and have the service provided along with destination marketing and conference marketing by one or more alternative providers. City council is also looking for efficiencies among its taxpayer-funded entities, with one proposal being to relocate tourism, the Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association and Atlific at the conference centre, and will also consider funding levels.

On the conference centre, Samra said it might make financial sense for the city to assume the operational facilities management services.

The changes come after a core services review, which looked at taxpayer-funded organizations, and a market feasibility study on the conference centre and hotel, both of which raised the issue of a lack of a destination collaborative marketing plan between tourism, conference centre and partner hotels.

Denise Tacon, general manager for the conference centre, said bringing organizations together to work harmoniously toward the same endeavor is insightful and needs to happen, adding the end result is going to be a collaboration of minds.

“Because the model is changing, it would have to go to tender in order to look at something different,” said Tacon. “I can only say that Atlific has to obviously take a look to see what those services are and then move forward in whatever fashion is fit from that.”

Council has until March, when the contract with Atlific expires, to make a final decision, according to Samra, who said ideally one would be made in advance.