Tourism marketing a regional priority

‘Growing Tourism Together’ was the theme for a gathering of industry leaders and stakeholders from Barriere to Valemount

Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association president and CEO Glenn Mandziuk

‘Growing Tourism Together’ was the theme for a gathering of industry leaders and stakeholders held at the Dutch Lake Community Centre in Clearwater on June 4.

Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA), president and CEO Glenn Mandziuk, team members, and Tourism Wells Gray co-hosted the session, with attendees from Valemount to Barriere in attendance.

Mandziuk stated the Thompson Okanagan is one of the leading tourist destinations in the world. In 2010 tourism generated over $1.7 billion to the regional economy, attracting 3.5 million visitors per year, with tourism employing approximately 15,000 people in this region.

“These are exciting times for TOTA and our tourism industry as we embark together on a bold, new strategic direction to launch year three of the Thompson Okanagan Regional Strategy – Embracing our Potential,” said Mandziuk, “To change and develop the industry we need to work together to become a year-round destination.

Mandziuk noted there are 90 communities and 21 First Nation Bands within the TOTA geographic area.  There are 3500 businesses, but a large portion of these are currently not represented in regards to marketing. However, 1800 businesses do participate in some manor of marketing within the area.

He stated that marketing the region requires “destination development – more partnership opportunities and sector collaboratives”.

One strategy to increase tourism in the area is to change the image of being a summer and hot weather destination to becoming an all season destination. To that end TOTA hopes to see increased tourism by one to two per cent during the fall and winter months.

“Sixty-four per cent of our visitors are from Vancouver,”  said Mandziuk, “But most of those don’t understand that we are about more than sun and water.”

Promoting the culture and geographic diversity of the region is a large part of TOTA’s marketing strategy which will be extended to attract new people from around the world to the Thompson Okanagan.

He noted that the new marketing strategy is breaking away from traditional channels; no visitor guides, no magazines. Prospective visitors will now be reached through online and electronic media.  The TOTA Visitors Guide will no longer be printed; instead, once visitors have arrived they can then pick up the printed tourism guides from individual communities if they wish.

TOTA will also be showcasing the Thompson Okanagan through efficient use of marketing resources such as attending expos with a travelling pavilion.

“We’re literally bringing the circus to town,” said the CEO, “High traffic, high profile..”

The TOTA pavilion will be on display in Vancouver in September, Seattle in March, and Calgary in April.

Plans are to re-stage the look of visitor centres in the region, and even to provide an opportunity to “experience the region” through some form of media outside if the visitor centre happens to be closed.

Mandziuk stated that in regards to industry and community development TOTA is shifting to sub-regional and corridor partnerships rather than individual communities.  Partnerships such as those already in place with Lower North Thompson Valley Tourism Society, Tourism Wells Gray, Tourism Valemount and the Thompson Nicola Regional District.

Marketing is being developed to push Route 97, which is the longest highway in North America, running from Weed, California, through the Thompson Okanagan and to the Alaska Highway.

Promoting public or private facilities where electric cars can be charged is high on the marketing list, with the CEO stating if an area has a spot for the plug-in TOTA will assist.  He noted it is hoped the region will be able to create these charging stations quickly, as those with electric cars coming from the lower mainland have disposable income and are positive visitors for stakeholders.

Mandziuk also spoke about creating a Sustainability Charter for tourism in the region.

“We have values to protect – to ensure they’re here for the long term – environmental, economic, social and sustainable.”

Marketing also includes promoting trail systems, such as the Kettle Valley and the newly proposed Barriere to McBride mounatin biking system.

The presentation covered a number of other marketing and promotion strategies that are all a part of TOTA’s 10 year regional marketing strategy.

Mandziuk encouraged area stakeholders to register with TOTA (there is no cost), get involved, perhaps run for a position on the TOTA Board, or participate as a member of one of TOTA’s Industry Advisory Boards.

The CEO emphasized members from all areas of the region are desired on these boards.

To find out more, go to: http://www.totabc.org

The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) is a not-for-profit society governed by the BC Societies Act and an elected Board of Directors who represent business and community tourism interests throughout the region. It is one of six regional tourism organizations in the province of BC that work under the Super, Natural British Columbia brand, and whose mandate includes marketing the Province’s tourism products.