Salmon Arm's Visitor Information Centre sits empty on Wednesday morning, Aug. 26, 2020. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)

Technology replacing Okanagan’s tourism centres

Use of centres drop drastically in Penticton, Salmon Arm, Kamloops and Vernon

With maps, reviews and suggestions readily available at our fingertips, the need for some services is fading.

That’s exactly the case with the Vernon tourism centre, which has closed its doors for good.

“Over the last few years, the use of the brick and mortar facility has gone down and down,” the city’s community infrastructure and development director Kim Flick said.

Cell phones, tablets and computers have taken over the work of tourist information centres in the past five years. The steady decline is evident since 2006, when the visitor information centre had 25,429 visitors. By 2019 that number dropped 58 per cent to 10,583.

The centre saw a slight uptick in usage in the summer of 2014 when centralized, but the downward trend has continued since then.

“The stats speak volumes, it’s losing money, it’s not doing what it intended,” Coun. Kari Gares said.

The situation is similar in other communities when looking at data from 2010 to 2019:

• Kamloops saw a 52 per cent decrease (its centre closed in 2020)

• Salmon Arm experienced a 48 per cent drop

• Penticton saw a drastic drop of 82 per cent

Operating the centre has been costly. While Destination BC provides an annual $25,000 grant, Vernon’s annual operations contract was approximately $190,000. That price tag did not include maintenance of the building.

Instead, the Tourism Commission has endorsed an interim approach to visitor serving for 2021 – spending $25,000 to enhance digital visitor servicing and $30,000 for mobile visitor servicing.

“Going to where the tourists are and providing them with what they need,” Flick said.

The old brick building will instead be used as a washroom facility for the City Centre Park which is under construction at the old Civic Arena site.

READ MORE: More roundabouts coming to Vernon

But there are still some who rely on such centres to find what they are looking for.

Coun. Scott Anderson said he did just that on a past visit to Prince George.

He blames the location of Vernon’s centre as part of the decline in attendance. Tucked in town, forcing southbound motorists to turn left off the highway, made it unattractive, he said, adding having centres at either end of town was the better way to go.

“Moving it downtown was just a dumb idea all around,” Anderson said.

The removal of the tourism centre also includes removing the sani-dump station. It will be temporarily relocated at the old Kin Racetrack until a permanent location can be identified.

READ MORE: Sani-dump moving to Vernon’s old Kin Racetrack


@VernonNews
jennifer@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Tourism

Just Posted

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

Firefighters were called to a grass fire on a hillside slope behind the post office in Summerland on Friday shortly before 2 p.m. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Firefighters extinguish blaze behind Summerland Post Office

Fire on hillside slope occurred Friday, June 18 shortly before 2 p.m.

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Emergency crews responded to Highway 97 after a motorcycle incident. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Motorcyclist taken to hospital after collision on Highway 97

It is not known the extent of their injuries

The illegal open fire above Naramata continues to smoke on Friday, June 18. The fire was left to burn itself out by BC Wildfire. (Monique Tamminga - Western News)
Illegal open burn in Naramata will be left to smoke

BC Wildfire could not confirm whether the property owner had been fined

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

People in Metro Vancouver can expect to experience a short wave of heat just in time for Father’s Day, according to Environment Canada. (Black Press Media files)
Short-lived heatwave headed for Metro Vancouver this weekend

Temperatures are expected to be up to 10 degrees higher than average Sunday and Monday

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

New research suggests wolves can be steered away from the endangered caribou herds they prey on by making the man-made trails they use to hunt harder to move along. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Culling cutlines, not B.C. wolves, key to preserving caribou herds: researcher

The government has turned to killing hundreds of wolves in an effort to keep caribou around

Gary Abbott (left) and Louis De Jaeger were two of the organizers for the 2014 Spirit of the People Powwow in Chilliwack. Monday, June 21, 2021 is Indigenous Peoples Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 20 to 26

Indigenous Peoples Day, Take Your Dog to Work Day, Onion Rings Day all coming up this week

Gwen Spencer Hethey with her uncle and mentor Major Frederick Richardson. (Courtesy of Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame)
‘She was a killer’: The B.C. woman who pioneered female sharpshooting

Gwen Spencer Hethey made military men ‘look like turkeys’ says her son

Rita Coolidge played the main stage at Vancouver Island Musicfest in 2017. (Black Press file photo)
This year’s Vancouver Island MusicFest to virtually showcase beauty of Comox Valley

Returning July 9 through 11 with more than 25 hours of music performances

Most Read