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Sunshine Coast Tourism director outlines mission for region

Organization is coordinating measures to attract visitors to areas from Howe Sound to Desolation Sound
STRONG INDUSTRY: Sunshine Coast Tourism executive director Annie Wise appeared before City of Powell River’s committee of the whole to provide an update on tourism measures and initiatives on the Sunshine Coast, from Desolation Sound to Howe Sound.

City of Powell River councillors were provided an overview of tourism endeavours on the Sunshine Coast.

At the May 2 committee of the whole meeting, Annie Wise, executive director of Sunshine Coast Tourism, said the Sunshine Coast, as a destination, spans from Desolation Sound to Howe Sound, and that Sunshine Coast Tourism is a nonprofit organization, called a destination marketing organization.

“Our mission is to build a strong, sustainable tourism economy in our region, consistent with the values of our residents,” said Wise. “We work to achieve that mission through three primary pillars: destination promotion, destination development and management, and by increasing awareness of the value of tourism amongst government, residents and people, and businesses in our region.

“We represent the tourism industry and stakeholders from Howe Sound to Desolation Sound, with collaborative support from all the local governments in that area. We manage the municipal and regional district tax (MRDT) program on behalf of the region.”

Wise said one of the key themes is the continued focus on seasonal and geographic dispersion of visitors to the region.

“It’s not about continually getting more people here or growth for growth’s sake; it is about strategically managing growth, supporting visitation when and where it is needed,” said Wise. “We are an ally in developing tourism in a way that maintains the values of this community. We are residents ourselves who care deeply about where we live, and in the best interests of the visitors who are coming here. When managed well, tourism is an incredible vessel for all sorts of things that make communities great.”

Wise said her organization receives public and private funding, from local governments, tourism industry stakeholders and visitors through the MRDT tax program, which assesses a two per cent tax on visitor stays in hotels and short-term rentals. She said for more than 10 years, each of the local governments has provided a collective annual amount of approximately $80,000, with $40,000 coming from the northern Sunshine Coast, from qathet Regional District and City of Powell River.

“This core funding provides us consistency and stability to base our operations on,” said Wise.

She said the MRDT is returned to Sunshine Coast Tourism for tourism marketing use projects and programs in the region.

Wise added that there is clear growth in the tourism industry, but it is still rebuilding in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. She said support for the industry is needed now more than ever, with global pressures such as rising costs, inflation, recession and labour constraints.

“We really need to work together to make sure the tourism industry is resilient for the future,” said Wise.

Sunshine Coast Tourism welcomes more than 500,000 individuals to its website each year, according to Wise. A key goal is to send qualified leads to local businesses, and in the past year, more than 175,000 referrals were sent to local businesses through the website, she added.

City councillor Trina Isakson asked if there were specific initiatives in Powell River that could be developed to enhance this as a destination of sustainable, respectful travellers.

Wise said the 10-year destination development strategy has 66 different action items and there are a number of actions within that document that are specific to Powell River.