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Tourism moves forward

Executive director leaves after successful rebranding
Tourism moves forward

by Kyle Wells reporter@prpeak.com Changes are afoot at Tourism Powell River as Executive Director Darren Robinson departs for other opportunities and Paul Kamon is welcomed as the new marketing director.

The entire administrative structure for tourism is being tweaked to make it less of a top-down authority chain. Jen Vasseur’s position at tourism is being changed from visitor services and project coordinator to visitor services manager and she will now be in charge of all things relating to the Visitor Information Centre. Kamon, as marketing director, will be focused purely on marketing tourism in the area.

Robinson, along with his wife and two children, is leaving to take a position as executive director of Enderby and District Chamber of Commerce in Enderby, BC. His decision to take the job was not an easy one. In the end the ability to be closer to extended family was a strong influence, as was the prospect of a new professional challenge.

“With this role I really get to build something up that utilizes all the skills I’ve developed over the last 10 years in the industry,” said Robinson. “Very excited to be there.”

After two and a half years living in Powell River, Robinson said he is going to miss the backcountry the most. He has spent much of his time exploring the wilds around the community and has fallen in love with the outdoors. He is also sad to leave the warm, welcoming community, the friends and the support that he has found.

“In my career and life we’ve moved a lot and no place has had an effect on me like Powell River, that’s a fact,” said Robinson. “This was a really tough choice.”

Looking back on his time here Robinson is most proud of building up Tourism Powell River “as a professional, forward-thinking, progressive organization that makes an economic difference.” A 2010 City of Powell River poll put tourism second only to the library as a service that the people of Powell River want to see supported, something Robinson believes attests to its importance.

His other achievement has been to turn Powell River into an identifiable brand with a highly media-savvy website. The new, locally designed website repackaged the online vision of Powell River and incorporated new photos, video and online knowledge to add appeal. Robinson also developed a media kit for the area and developed contacts which have resulted in many articles written on the area and its offerings.

As Powell River moves into the future Robinson said the greatest asset this community could use is an alternative to BC Ferries, the price of which Robinson believes is harmful to the community. Robinson likes the option of a road being built as an alternative connection to the community. Growing off-season tourism is another area that needs time and attention, said Robinson, which means capitalizing on the winter outdoor recreation possibilities in the area.

Enticement of entrepreneurs to the area is key to Powell River’s future success, said Robinson. Seeing empty commercial spaces can be discouraging and more needs to be done to help businesses become aware of the “tremendous potential” here. Robinson would also like to see the hotel tax come into fruition in order to help sustain tourism efforts.

“Awareness. It almost always comes down to awareness and I think we’ve put Powell River on the tourism map now,” said Robinson, “but now we just need to raise the bar even further than we already have.”

Robinson said he’ll be back to visit Powell River at some point and that he can’t say goodbye to places like Appleton Creek or Stillwater Bluffs. Hiking the entirety of the Sunshine Coast Trail and completing the Powell Forest Canoe Route are on Robinson’s bucket list.

Kamon said one of his main reasons for deciding to move to Powell River is because he thinks it will be a great community for his two young boys to grow up in. For a few years, Kamon and his family have been coming up to the area for the Sunshine Music Festival, and have kept an eye open for a way to move to the region.

No stranger to the tourism industry, Kamon worked as the sales and marketing director for Island Expeditions Ltd., an outdoor adventure company in Belize, for five years. He also ran a photo studio with his brother for six years and has a degree from the University of British Columbia in creative writing. Kamon started an online restaurant dining guide for BC called UrbanDiner.ca and helped to start the Vancouver Craft Beer Week which will be held for the third time in May 2012.

Kamon said he is technology oriented and particularly comfortable with social media, making him ahead of the game in regard to online marketing. Kamon described his goal here as trying to enrich Powell River “in a way that it deserves.” He sees tourism as a great asset to the community and foresees using technology to a large extent in his approach to marketing the region.

“You’re promoting a region, you’re promoting a town, you’re promoting a culture, a people, a community,” said Kamon, “so to me that’s like the ultimate job in marketing. You’re promoting the real deal, the whole thing and something that I can totally believe in.”

Step one for Kamon is to become familiar with the area and its people, including all the stakeholders in tourism, and then develop his own approach to marketing the region. Kamon and his family moved to Townsite and he has spent much of his first week going around the community with Robinson, meeting people, seeing the sights and learning about the region.

“Everyone’s been very kind and welcoming,” said Kamon. “It’s been really nice so far.”

Vasseur said her new position leaves her in charge of the Visitor Information Centre, including the responsibility of staffing the centre in the summer with students.

“Lot’s of changes. It’s sad. I’m in denial,” said Vasseur about Robinson’s departure. “I’m okay with change, I just have to be reminded that I’m okay with it. And I’m looking forward to working with Paul; I’m excited about that.”

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