With tourism taking the hardest hit in 2020 due to COVID-19, Tourism Vernon is taking a new approach to help visitors and area residents activate their adventures in 2021.
Visitor services will be going mobile with an enhanced digital presence and a traveling promotion team to meet visitors where they are, with the information they need.
“We have learned a lot of valuable lessons over the last several months,” Mayor Victor Cumming said. “Including how resilient we are as a community, and how we need to – and can – adapt to frequently changing circumstances. Tourism and hospitality has been the most impacted sector in the North Okanagan from the COVID-19 pandemic. The changes we are making for the coming year are aimed at supporting the efforts of local tourism providers, with a focus on modern, agile marketing and promotion that can be adapted as necessary to meet the rapidly changing conditions.”
On April 3, 2020 the Vernon Visitor Information Centre was closed to the public, following recommendations from provincial health officials to cancel non-essential travel. Since that time, revenue sources that Tourism Vernon relies upon for operational purposes have declined significantly and the anticipated 2021 budget could be 40 per cent lower than previous years.
Council has approved the continued closure of the Visitor Information Centre throughout 2021, and the reallocation of $65,000 to go towards digital and mobile visitor servicing activities to offer more accessible information online, and more personal interactions within the community.
The funds will be used to enhance the Tourism Vernon website and launch a new mobile app and virtual map. A new on-location visitor servicing team will also be activated, traveling to a variety of popular Vernon locations throughout the spring and summer, to provide effective and timely support for visitors and residents looking for information.
“The tourism research in British Columbia and across Canada has been clear,” tourism commission chair and Predator Ridge Resort’s director of accommodation Claus Larsen. “Travelers are searching more, booking more and buying more on mobile devices.”
Several other communities across B.C. are using this same mobile approach, according to economic development and tourism manager Kevin Poole.
“Not only have those communities seen positive results in connecting visitors to local attractions, but they’ve also seen an increased number of local residents beginning to explore their own communities and discovering businesses or attractions they didn’t know existed.”
Following the 2021 summer season, Tourism Vernon will seek feedback from the tourism commission and local tourism providers about how to proceed with visitor servicing opportunities in 2022.
“The next 12 months will be a period of recovery,” Cumming said.