Westside chamber opts out of tourism promotion

  • Sun Feb 27th, 2011 10:00am
  • News

Tourism initiatives promoting the Westside will continue, but the organizing committee formerly run under the auspices of the Westbank and District Chamber of Commerce will start reporting directly to local governments beginning this April.

Acting vice-president Craig Brown noted the chamber wanted to focus more of its efforts on its membership. 

He said the chamber found over the last few years that tourism had been overshadowing the core work of the group for its business members.

“It’s really affected the chamber as a whole.”

Brown said it will continue to be business as usual for the tourism committee, and the chamber will maintain contact with them up until the end of March. 

After that time, the tourism committee will start reporting to the District of West Kelowna, the Westbank First Nation and the Regional District of Central Okanagan. 

“The committee itself will continue, as far as we see it.”

Brown noted the chamber is in full support of tourism and recognizes it is an important part of the community. 

He added that the organization needs to focus on its membership. 

He said the tourism committee has done a tremendous job and the move is a positive step. 

Brown said looking at the other chamber models of operation across B.C., the groups are not involved in tourism as it differs from their role as a business advocacy group.

“What we really wanted to do is to hand it over to the three governments, (and) say, ‘This is something you really need to handle yourselves.’”

Brown said the committee had previously discussed breaking from the chamber and becoming a separate society, and a subcommittee has been  struck to examine the idea. 

He noted the chamber is in full support of the move, as the tourism body needs to find professionals to really market and support tourism in the area.

He added that tourism work had come to take up close to 60 per cent of chamber staff time. 

“The membership of the chamber has been suffering.”

The chamber will continue to operate the West Kelowna Visitor Information Centre, which they have run for 30 years. 

Brown said the chamber will be looking to the district to help fund the operation. 

He added that improvements to the visitor’s centre will make it more a retail type of outlet, where visitors can get tourism information on the area but also have the opportunity to purchase and look at local art.

West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater said the chamber basically tossed it back to the three funders who put money into this to design the program from here on in. 

He noted he had been told the chamber wanted to focus on being the voice of business in the community.

Findlater noted Tourism Kelowna broke from their own chamber of commerce a number of years ago, and it is not a unique situation that may be emerging here.

Economic development officer John Perrott said its always a concern leading into a tourist season, that West Kelowna businesses don’t feel abandoned midstream.

Coun. Duane Ophus noted the tourism committee are a focused and dedicated group of people. 

“I think we can turn this minor negative into a very big positive.”

msimmons@kelownacapnews.com