By Dorothy Isted and Pioneer Staff
On January 27th at Copper Point Resort, over 80 people attended a meeting held by the Regional DMO (Destination Marketing Organization) steering committee. Moderated by Pascal van Dijk, president and CEO of Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, committee members presented a detailed picture including the background of the committee, the work that has been done since 2013, and the recommendations that have resulted.
Currently, marketing for the Columbia Valley is undertaken by individual stakeholders and two DMOs Tourism Radium and the Invermere-Panorama DMO. Guests renting within a DMO boundary pay a Municipal Resort Development Tax of two per cent on their rooms. The provincial government collects the tax then returns the money to a municipality, which then grants it to a DMO to spend on marketing.
As Regional District Areas F and G, and Canal Flats, do not have a DMO, the two per cent Municipal Resort Development Tax is not currently being collected by numerous accommodators. The tax that could be collected if a DMO encompassed these areas is conservatively estimated to be $168,000 a year.
Regional DMO steering committee members include current and past local politicians, and marketing experts, as well as representatives from tourism organizations, accommodators, existing DMOs, the Columbia Valley Golf Trail, the arts community and Parks Canada.
The history of the process began in December 2013 when, after public consultation, the Columbia Valley Community Directed Funds committee created the Community Priorities Plan (CPP), which identified five top regional priorities.
Branding, marketing and promotion of the Columbia Valley was the priority considered most urgent.
Other priorities included economic development and business growth, affordable housing, recreation, and arts and culture.
The CPP concluded, A comprehensive branding, marketing and promotional strategy is required for the Columbia Valley. A compelling narrative that captures the essence of the area and works to increase tourism and attract new residents is currently lacking.
In January 2015, the directed funds committee called a meeting, inviting a wide variety of stakeholders. It was decided that a survey would be undertaken with a meeting scheduled in April 2015 to discuss the results.
The April 2015 meeting resulted in the formation of the Regional DMO steering committee. In addition, three models were presented, with the recommended model being a sub-regional DMO. This new sub-regional DMO would encompass the two existing DMOs as well as RDEK Areas F and G, and Canal Flats. A governance model, policy and board makeup were also discussed. Approximately 60 people were in attendance.
Now, in order to move forward with the formation of the sub-regional DMO, two thresholds need to be met. The first threshold requires that 51 per cent of the rooms within the proposed area vote in favour of a sub-regional DMO accommodators will be given one vote per room.
The second threshold requires that 51 per cent of all accommodators within the proposed boundaries vote in favour of a sub-regional DMO. Each accommodator receives one vote regardless of the number of rooms they manage.
If both thresholds are met, then the committee will file an application with the province to have the DMO boundaries redrawn and an election for the DMO Board of Directors would be organized.
The current proposal calls for 12 board members with seven of the directors representing local accommodators. Fairmont Hot Springs Resort and Panorama Mountain Resort would appoint two of the seven directors with the additional five accommodator directors being elected from categories based on the number of rooms they manage. The final five directors would represent Retail/Food and Beverage, Golf, Attractions/Activities/Community Recreational Assets, Real Estate/Development and Arts/Culture.
The Board would then be responsible for hiring an Executive Director, approving a budget and drafting policy.
Small business owner Deb James of Crystal Springs Motel in Radium, who has been in the business for 35 years, is in favour of the recommendation to form one DMO. She explained how once the majority of bookings were through printed material such as BC Accommodations and BCAA ,but now her business primarily uses online booking sites. Other motel owners who dont are falling behind.
Most people do their research online before they leave home, said Ms. James. She also liked that the Regional DMO meeting at Copper Point on January 27th was very positive overall with very little negativity. We need a vision for this valley, sustainable co-operative marketing, an identity and brand that is both recognizable and unique, one voice instead of a fragmented business community.
Pat Bavin, speaking as a small business owner and as a part of the arts community, had this to say: Especially you small operators its always been difficult to engage in the big playing field. For me, theres this great opportunity to participate with other stakeholders and more funding.
From the non-profit point of view, Greenways executive director Mark Halwa encouraged people to move past the organizational curse of the weve-always-done-it-this-way mentality.
It doesnt have a lot to do with marketing and branding, he said. This project is the relationships.
He stated there has been a lot of work done on this until now and a big factor will be trust.
Accommodator voting ends on Monday, March 7th.