At the public meeting held in City of Vernon Council Chambers on Monday, February 24, residents raised a number of questions or concerns regarding the proposed centralization and relocation of Vernon’s two Visitor Information Centres.
The following represents some of those questions and the answers provided by Kim Flick, Director of Community Development, and Michelle Jefferson, Manager of Tourism Services.
Why was the decision made to move the existing Visitor Information Centres located on the north and south side of Vernon?
Centralizing and consolidating Vernon’s two Visitor Centres is a key objective in the 2010 – 2015 Tourism Development Plan. Best practices in Visitor Centre operations encourage centralization in the community as studies show that a visitor who stops in a city centre is four times more likely to spend money in that city than one that stops at a highway location.
Communities such as Tofino, Prince George and Kelowna have either relocated or are in the process of relocating from highway locations to downtown/city centre locations due to declining visitation and the desire to draw visitors into the central core of the community.
Changes in the demographics of travelers and growing preferences for online sources of information are offering Visitor Centres throughout BC the chance to redefine how they interact with visitors and increase tourism’s economic impact for their community. Decreasing visitor numbers and centralization will permit Visitor Services to reallocate resources towards greater online marketing activities, engagement and promotion of our local tourist attractions and amenities.
What are the decreasing rates of visitation related to? Is this just an aberration due to the economy?
The decline in Vernon Visitor Centre traffic does not correspond with a decline in tourism in Vernon. Tourism activity in Vernon has increased each year since 2011.
Throughout our region and the province, Visitor Centres located in areas that have easy access to online technologies are experiencing a decline in visitation to Visitor Centres.
This decline has taken place over the past six years. Conversely, Visitor Centres located in more rural locations, where web access is limited, are seeing increases in visitation. This trend doesn’t decrease the need for a Visitor Centre, but it does offer the opportunity to refine how and where the services are provided.
Why was the location on 39 Avenue selected as the site?
The Civic Arena block is designated as a future park site in the City’s Official Community Plan. The intent is to provide visitors a central stopping point with park amenities that provide a warm welcome to our community. The relocation of the Visitor Information Centre is the first step in realizing this vision.
Was access to this location considered?
Access to the site was evaluated by a consultant as part of a traffic impact assessment. That assessment indicated that the site is readily accessible via the highway and 27 Street, both of which have dedicated left hand turn lanes in both directions, as does 39 Avenue.
The traffic impact assessment also indicates that, on average, approximately six additional trips per hour will be generated by the new Visitor Centre location. BC Visitor Centre Network signage will be installed so that it is visible from all directions.
The vast majority of vehicles that stop at the Vernon Visitor Centre are cars, campers, vans and smaller RVs (under 25 ft). Although larger RVs or trucks and trailers occasionally stop, the new site has a sani-dump that is currently used by these kinds of vehicles and therefore access does not appear to be an issue. In addition, large 55 passenger buses regularly bring teams to the Civic Arena and are able to access the site.
What about parking?
The parking configuration for the new visitor centre includes two RV spots, two accessible spots and seven standard parking spaces for visitors and staff. RVs will be able to pull directly through the existing north lane adjacent the Civic Arena.
During the busy summer season, staff will be encouraged to ride bikes, take transit or walk to work. This is now feasible due to the Visitor Centre’s more central location.