The City of Nanaimo has mapped out a transition process for tourism, with Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation set to lose the job next year.
In a 5-4 vote Monday, city council approved a process to build a vision for tourism and establish a new entity, despite calls from some politicians to take more time to speak with stakeholders.
Council decided in October to pull tourism from the economic development corporation. It will now move ahead with a new tourism advisory committee which would advise city staff and council in conjunction with a consultant. Tourism Nanaimo will continue its services until the end of March, at which point the city will contract month-to-month with Tourism Vancouver Island on destination marketing and development, estimated to cost approximately $475,000, although the amount still has to be discussed. Overlap between the two organizations is expected.
A motion by Coun. Jerry Hong removed timelines associated with the process. The city also has to decide how to run its visitor centre, as council did not vote on a staff proposal to pay the Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association to do the work.
Council debated if it should forge ahead or reach out again to stakeholders. The city held two meetings with local tourism stakeholders, however two attendees told the News Bulletin there was no consultation on the recommended process, which was published in a city council meeting agenda in advance of the stakeholder meeting last Thursday.
Coun. Wendy Pratt said that after Monday’s presentation council has clarity on the process that people in the community and industry don’t have.
Pratt wanted something to come back that those in the community who “benefit from this, work within it, feel really comfortable that we are making the right decision moving forward.”
Coun. Diane Brennan also supported slowing down.
“We should put the breaks on, go back to the group, talk to them and then our staff can bring us another report, probably very similar to this, but one they are certain the community has understood the direction we want to take and there be some degree of consensus,” she said. “Otherwise we are fighting an uphill battle and we don’t need to because I think the tourism industry wants this to work as much as we do.”
Coun. Bill Bestwick, however, pointed out the first phase of the process does have engagement with stakeholders and wanted to get on with that, while Coun. Jim Kipp was interested in forming a strategic committee that will produce a mission, vision, objective and service providers that Nanaimo wants. He said it needs to get going.
“We have to get the experts, going on their horse and running and drive the train, drive the cart, drive whatever we got to do to get tourists to come,” he said.
Leif Bogwald, owner of Vancouver Island Expeditions, said it’s not the best-case scenario to have a transition where portions of Tourism Nanaimo are contracted out, but at this point it’s the only scenario because at the end of March 2017, Tourism Nanaimo is going to be taken away from economic development. He does see gaps in the plan, which does not mention meetings and conferences, sports tourism, and day-to-day social media.
“Tourism Nanaimo has done a great job of building a huge following and I don’t know if that’s going to continue and I don’t see how that can continue because all the funding is going to Tourism Vancouver Island for the most part to continue a portion of tourism,” said Bogwald, adding the popular recommendation was to develop a tourism advisory committee as soon as possible to give advice and help the process take place.
Leo Boon, a member of the Tourism Leadership Committee, said the industry is excited about an industry-led authority and beginning the process to develop a new tourism structure that will allow for delivery of tourism services under one roof.