Tourism Powell River is responding to visitor demands for unique experiences and is modernizing and expanding to meet the requirements of an increasingly digital age.
Tracey Ellis, executive director of Tourism Powell River, which manages and operates the Powell River Visitor Centre, outlined the operation and introduced this year’s summer students at the Tuesday, June 4, City of Powell River committee of the whole meeting.
Ellis said Tourism Powell River’s mission statement is to welcome the world to our unique, coastal experience.
“In this very challenging tourism world, Tourism Powell River is always looking for ways to draw people to Powell River and the Powell River area in order to enjoy what it is we have to offer that is truly unique, including such assets as the Duck Lake trail system, the various rock climbing opportunities that are here, the arts, culture and heritage district that we have,” said Ellis. “These are all very valuable, proven assets that do define us as being a unique destination. More and more we are seeing visitors come to our area looking for the unique experiences that include having that alone-in-the-wilderness hiking experience.”
Ellis said objectives of the society are to promote tourism for the benefit of area residents and visitors; to promote services and accessibility within the hospitality services industry for all tourists and area residents; and to develop, promote and provide leadership in marketing and education for the benefit of society membership and residents of the region.
Part of that education includes mentoring the “up and coming future tourism stars” such as the young people who will be serving as summer staff.
Ellis said tourism week had just wrapped up in Canada and the value of tourism from Destination BC had been announced. The latest snapshot indicates $18.4 billion in annual revenue from tourism to the province.
Ellis said in 2018, there were 10,371 people who walked into the visitor centre, which is up 5.9 per cent over the previous year. There has been an upward trend over the last five years, with the visitor centre up 9.58 per cent on average over the past five years, she added.
The visitor centre has also served 5,079 visitors over the past five years at events with its mobile unit and in 2018, it served 1,348 people at events.
In an online chat pilot project run during the past year 1,337 people were engaged. Ellis said it was difficult to get going but once people realized there were real people ready to respond, it has become a valuable service, especially for people who are on the road, on their journeys through Powell River, with questions.
In terms of community-specific requests, there were 17,254 requests for information at Powell River Visitor Centre in 2018. Topping the list is general hiking information at 1,630. There were 1,065 requests for the Sunshine Coast Trail information. Kayaking had 283, Powell River Canoe Route had 119 and cycling had 158 requests.
“It’s not that we don’t have a great deal of interest in cycling; they are people who tend to use their tablets and phones and they download maps, so don’t let that number throw you off,” said Ellis.
Duck Lake area had 255 requests for hiking and biking information. Desolation Sound and Savary Island requests were 422, Lund had 726 and Texada Island had 310 requests. Heritage attractions had 709 requests.
“We know that’s a very big deal for tourism growth,” said Ellis.
In terms of website performance, there were 415,000 users at the powellriver.info portal site, of which 111,000 visitors came to the visitor centre page.
Top performers include the Sunshine Coast Trail guest book, which had 8,415 people who signed in to let people know they were on the trail.
In terms of Facebook, there’s been a big jump in post reach, but also in people commenting, using the messaging service to get hold of the visitor centre.
“We’re very pleased with that,” said Ellis.
In 2018, the visitor centre attended Powell River Logger Sports, BC Bike Race, PRISMA, the Blackberry Festival, Arts Alive in the Park, the Canada Day celebration, Texada Fly-in, and the shellfish festival in Lund.
The visitor centre was able to purchase a portable 3D-printed satellite map, which was shown at the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities conference in Powell River earlier this year. The visitor centre also distributed 30,000 brochures last year.
This year, the centre has an Historic Townsite coordinator, and there is a pilot project in Townsite Public Market, offering visitor services at that location.
The visitor centre will continue to offer its online chat services, and bilingual services, because two of the counsellors can provide French services. There will continue to be mobile services with the visitor centre trailer, which is “much loved and a big attraction at events.”