Letter: Rebutting Tourism Kelowna building hype

Re: Tourism Centre Should be a 'Legacy Building' kelownacapnews.com/opinion.

To the editor:

I would like to take issue with Mr. Ballingall, a senior executive with Big White, on his take on the need to have an imposing tourist office on our waterfront. (Tourism Centre Should be a ‘Legacy Building’ kelownacapnews.com/opinion.) It is important to stick to facts, and not cloud a point of view with flowery hype.

Sunday in the Park, SeuratClearly, Kelowna and environs tourism is doing rather well without much input from the bricks and mortar tourist bureau, as they acknowledge by their minimal number of visitors, although they are probably doing a good job with their website and magazines. Big White this season had record numbers and hotels are changing hands at record prices, to mention a couple of examples.

Mr. Ballingall mentions that he has travelled to many places in the world, so he would know that cities do not allow tourist bureaus to be intrusive in areas where tourists have come to enjoy themselves. The tourist office in New York is in Macy’s, for goodness sakes, and in Paris is it along the Seine River? No it is two blocks away in a multi-purpose building. I could cite similar arrangements in dozens of cities all just as proud of their heritage, tourist attractions and hospitality as we are.

So two things are clear here:

1. Tourist bureaus are in discreet rented premises in pedestrian areas and

2. They don’t spend millions of tax dollars (paid by visitors) putting up their own building.

I have a suggestion for Mr. Ballingall. Since so many hundreds, if not thousands of tourists go to Big White in winter without coming into town, perhaps he will allow Tourism Kelowna to build a satellite office near the bottom of their most popular ski run, where skiers could ski in, pick up some information on other tourist attractions in the area, enjoy the views through a window, and then ski off. I have a good idea what his response would be, and for the same reasons those of us who enjoy the waterfront both regularly and as tourists don’t want the building; it would be obtrusive and obstructive.

The city now deems the waterfront parking lot redundant, since several (parkades) are popping up downtown, so we can now complete the lateral park by grassing in that area, running a nice path through it and putting in many trees and benches. And like all other cities, including the most visited ones in the world, our tourist office will best serve everyone’s needs by relocating to a nearby street-front site.

There is a reason why retailers and service providers generally prefer to rent—they put their money into what their customers want and the services they provide. If Tourism Kelowna employees have travelled, and I am sure they have, they know as an absolute certainty that tourist offices do not set themselves up as stand-alone obstructions at popular tourist attractions.

Don Henderson, Kelowna