Letter: Tourism Kelowna redesigns visitor centre for Kelowna

Visitor Centre will use local materials, promote local business. Staff offices are not be included in this draft of the proposed building.

Tourism Kelowna Visitor Centre draft #2 foot of Queensway.

Open letter to Kelowna residents:

When we first announced our Visitor Centre proposal in March, we received many positive comments and some suggestions from the public on improvements they would like to see.

We listened.

The project we unveiled this week [Scaled Back Plan for New Kelowna Visitor Centre Unveiled, Nov. 2 Kelowna Capital News] has taken into account the feedback from our community. We realigned the building to remove it from the Simpson Covenant lands, and we have come up with alternate arrangements for the Tourism Kelowna offices. The offices have now been removed from the project. The end result is a signature glass building that is 40 per cent smaller providing a concierge-like service downtown; a level of service people associate with the top destinations in the world, where guests and local residents feel welcome and become interested in exploring all that Kelowna has to offer.

This project is not at the water’s edge, it never was. In fact the area between the water and our building will be over 15 meters wide, twice as wide as the walkway in front of the Kelowna Yacht Club. This will provide a plaza-like environment that families can enjoy with plenty of room to stroll, picnic or enjoy the view.

What hasn’t changed is the need for a new Visitor Centre, strategically placed where visitors and residents already congregate. Our strategic location is the foot of Queensway in what is now a parking lot which will disappear when the road is closed due to the nearby hotel project. Our tracking indicates that on average over 1,200 people pass by this location daily. We are moving to where the people are.

Locally designed, the Visitor Centre features an extensive use of glass and B.C. wood products. Inside a team of well-trained ambassadors will welcome visitors and local residents, using interactive storyboard displays which will educate visitors about our heritage and attractions, encouraging discovery. We will support our cultural community and other local business through the sale of local artisan products, tickets for entertainment and attractions, tours, and cultural events. There will also be additional public washrooms, which are desperately needed in our busy downtown core. All of this is at no cost to the City of Kelowna, or our residents. Tourism Kelowna will fund the construction by borrowing or raising all of the money required.

We have thoroughly researched this project and found that every time a visitor centre is moved off a highway and into a high volume pedestrian area it is successful. Even tech-savvy millennials use visitor centres. That’s because they are experienced enough to know they can’t believe everything they see online and need an independent person, a real person, to help them. It means visitor centres, located in the right place, are here to stay.

We believe that we have designed a visitor centre that will showcase Kelowna, and be a source of pride for local residents to use and recommend to friends. We hope you can join us Nov. 9 at a public information session on the site of our proposed Visitor Centre on Queensway. Come down and look at our plans, give us your feedback. We hope you will be as excited as we are.

Find out more on from the Tourism Kelowna website www.tourismkelowna.com/newvisitorcentre

Daniel Bibby, chair,

Tourism Kelowna board of directors