Powell River Visitor Centre manager Tracey Ellis and her team of staff members and summer students are gearing up and hoping for another record-breaking year of visits to the Northern Sunshine Coast as the community celebrates Tourism Powell River's 25th anniversary.
BC’s tourism industry experienced record-setting numbers last year and that trend is expected to continue. Already, businesses and destinations across the province have enjoyed a busy first quarter and anticipate more record results this summer.
As tourism continues to grow in importance, contributing close to $30 million annually to the local economy, more work is being done to entice visitors to come to Powell River, not just during the busy summer season but throughout the year, says Ellis.
Tourism Powell River president Bob Timms says the community is looking forward to continuing that trend.
“Tourism represents a great value to the region and our community is home to many tourism businesses that offer remarkable experiences,” says Timms. “It is a critical piece of our economy and supports social, cultural and recreational benefits for all residents.”
In order to recognize that importance, Powell River will join communities, cities and regions around BC to recognize National Tourism Week from May 27 to June 2. Operators and communities are sharing tourism week celebrations on social media using hashtags #BCTourismMatters and #TourismWeek.
“We are happy to take part in the social media celebrations of tourism week,” says Ellis. “Everyone has a part to play in welcoming our visitors and the visitor centre and our mobile information counsellor efforts are part of a much larger industry that is an important economic cog in the big engine of the local economy.”
Last year, Powell River Visitor Centre welcomed more than 9,000 visitors, an estimated 10 per cent of the total annual number, to its brick-and-mortar location and mobile visitor centre on Texada Island. The centre also provided expert advice, information, collectible t-shirts and souvenirs for the public.
“We are the experts in tourism and visitor services,” says Ellis.
Tourism Powell River has hired five summer students to help visitors inside the centre and around the region, lead Historic Townsite Ghost Tours and provide information about Powell River, Sunshine Coast Trail and Savary Island.
Students will also be working on portfolio projects, including adding an online video component to the ever-popular Townsite self-guided walking tour brochure for visitors who want to use tablets or phones on the tour for a more interactive experience. Ellis adds that students will also be working on a social media video marketing campaign called Coastal by Nature Moments.
The visitor centre, operated by community non-profit Tourism Powell River, is celebrating a quarter century of providing visitors with information they need to make the most of their time in the region. While visitors are finding more travel information online, that trend has not led to fewer people reaching out to centre staff for answers.
“Our numbers have actually gone up and have been increasing because visitors are coming in to get the inside local information,” says Ellis. “This is a reflection of the excellent customer service we have developed that starts with a warm and friendly Powell River welcome.
The visitor centre offers information on social media on its website that incorporates a live online chat function, says Ellis. Despite this, many visitors who return to Powell River each year stop by the centre because they recognize and value having a real person to speak with, someone who has local knowledge about the trails, fishing holes and festivals to attend, she adds.
Visitor centre staff members always have firsthand knowledge of Powell River’s wilderness areas.
“Some of us are mountain bikers and hikers, and some of us are rock climbers,” says Ellis. “Everyone on staff has their specialty.”