Letter: Is a visitor centre for Kelowna still relevant?

Former Destination BC exec says 'if positioned correctly' tourist centres are a 'valuable asset.'

To the editor:

I have been following with interest Tourism Kelowna’s new visitor centre plan progress.  In light of consumers increased reliance on digital solutions to access information and declining visitation to bricks and mortar locations especially on highway corridors, communities are developing new ways to engage visitors and the location of visitor centres and their importance to drive the tourism economy are under review. Tourism Kelowna is correctly taking a strategic approach in reviewing its operation.

While it’s true that an increasing number of visitors are accessing trip planning information online, there remains demand for face-to-face information once the visitor arrives.  Visitors generally wait until they are in a destination to make decisions about such items as attractions, activities and dining and as a trusted source of local knowledge and insider tips, a well placed visitor centre with trained and dedicated staff can provide a wide range of options and influence visitor spending.  Today more than ever, visitors have a greater expectation of exceptional customer service.   The personal and professional approach offered by a visitor centre has value in supporting the generation of a positive community reputation.   The key is to ensure the centre is in a convenient location and the information provided is inspiring, relevant, accurate and timely.

At its current location, the Kelowna Visitor Centre is experiencing declining visitation and is likely serving a portion of consumers looking for information outside of the community.

A new location would provide a better opportunity to reach both higher volume and higher value visitors.  As I understand it, the proposed site will have exposure to 440,000 pedestrians annually and situated in the downtown core, have a natural appeal to visitors who have already demonstrated an interest in Kelowna and are open to the tremendous selection of tourism experiences available.

Visitors will continue to access travel information in many ways and while a visitor centre is only one channel, if positioned correctly it can be a valuable asset to a broader visitor servicing strategy and support a healthy tourism economy.

Margaret McCormick,

Eagle Bay on Shuswap Lake

Margaret McCormick is a former executive with Destination BC.