Waters: Downtown is the right spot for a visitor centre

Where do you put a tourist information centre?

That's the question the city has been grappling with for the last year as it tries to find a replacement site for the existing space occupied by Kelowna Tourism in the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce building on Harvey Avenue.

While some in the community say the current location is best, others, including Kelowna Tourism, say a more centrally located spot downtown would be better.

And they're right.

Take a look at other cities and you'll see their main tourist information centres are located downtown.

The reason is simple — that's where the people are.

The days of aiming your tourism information at drive-by visitors are gone. The Internet, GPS and a host of other services have made itinerary planning something often done either in advance of a trip or once you get to your destination, and with the help of a computer, smart phone or tablet.

Like any business, it pays to be where the people are and, in the case of Kelowna, they are downtown.

The first attempt at finding a location for a new city centre tourist info spot was a grandiose plan for a building in part of Kelowna's City Park.

Given that the park is the jewel in city's waterfront crown of public space, the outcry against the proposal was predictable. No one wants to replace prkland with asphalt and concrete.

Now a new proposal has been advanced by city hall for a smaller, 5,000-square-foot building on what is now a parking lot at the foot of Queensway. Council was to be discuss the proposal at Monday afternoon's council meeting.

But opponents have spoken out about that spot too in recent days. And that has Kelowna Tourism cranking up its public relations effort to win support for the latest plan.

As it stands Kelowna Tourism is merely a tenant at its current location, a spot both it and the chamber agree is not ideal. The chamber wants more space for its operations and Kelowna Tourism, which has already moved its administration offices out, needs more than just a counter.

Back in the "beaches and peaches" days of Kelowna tourism, a highway location was ideal. But times change and so has the way the traveling public wants to get its information.

Rubber-wheel traffic will still have a chance find out where to go, where to stay, where to eat and what's happening as it rolls into this area off the Coquihalla Connector at the provincial tourist information centre. So the majority of drivers arriving here will still be covered.

But what the city needs is a place to province information for those who are already here, people who don't want to, or can't, drive to a tourist information centre.

Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News


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