By Dorothy Isted

Special to the Pioneer

The Columbia Valley Branding and Marketing steering committee presented an intriguing idea earlier this week a way to generate more marketing dollars so everybody from non-profits to small and large business owners can increase their profitability.

The proposal is to create a single Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) for the entire Columbia Valley. Currently we have two: Invermere/Panorama and Radium. Canal Flats and Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Areas F and G, including Fairmont Hot Springs, are not currently aligned with a DMO.

More than 80 people attended a meeting on the topic held at Copper Point Resort on Wednesday, January 27th. In 2013 there was a Community Priorities Plan which consulted with 181 people, after which 100 people completed an online survey. From this there were five top priorities identified, the first priority being branding, marketing and promotion of the Columbia Valley.

Currently the two DMOs collect a two per cent tax charged to guests by accommodators (B&Bs, motels, hotels, cabins) called the municpal regional district tax (MRDT) which must be used specifically for marketing. The Radium DMO currently generates approximately $144,000 per year with the Invermere/Panorama DMO generating about $95,000 per year. Adding Canal Flats and RDEK Areas F and G is estimated to generate an additional $168,000 in marketing funds per year.

The steering committee forecasts that if a single valley-wide DMO is formed, pooled resources would total more than $400,000 per year. In 2014 Banff, Canmore and all of B.C. had occupancy rates from 60 per cent to 66 per cent. The Columbia Valley had an estimated 47 per cent occupancy rate. More marketing dollars will result in more heads in beds which means more jobs and increased revenues for valley businesses.

To create one DMO for the whole valley, the decision rests with accommodators, from mom and pop businesses to the large resorts. The provincial government requires there to be a minimum vote of 51 per cent by the accommodators to adopt the proposed unified DMO. The steering committee said it realizes that while the decision lies with the accommodators, the support of a majority of stakeholders is needed to succeed with the concept and long term vision of the plan. See next weeks issue for a more in-depth story.