Chamber Week: Tourism on the rise, B.C. Chamber survey finds

The Cowichan Valley has a lot to offer tourists, but only recently work has begun to aggressively market the area as a tourist destination

The Cowichan Valley has a lot to offer tourists, but it is only recently that work has begun to aggressively market the area as a tourist destination, according to Janet Docherty.

Docherty, chairwoman of the Tourism Cowichan Society, said the society’s long-term plans for destination marketing of the Valley are well advanced, and she believes the region can and will soon be as competitive as some of the more popular tourist destinations in B.C.

“We certainly have a lot to offer here, but little has been done to market ourselves until now,” Docherty said.

“Now we’re getting competitive, and we have more funding coming from Destination BC for tourism marketing this year, although we don’t have those numbers yet. There are amazing opportunities for growth in the industry here.”

Docherty said, considering how high a priority expanding tourism in the Valley has become, she’s not surprised with the results of a survey of members recently conducted by the BC Chamber of Commerce on the province’s tourist industry.

The survey found that up to 90 per cent of respondents are confident B.C.’s tourism economy, worth approximately $15 billion per year, will become more important over the next decade.

“It’s well known that tourism is good for many businesses, but I think many people would be amazed at just how many local businesses in the Valley are impacted by tourism,” Docherty said.

“Gas stations are not considered a tourist industry, but lots of tourists stop at our stations to fill up. As well, a lot of people come here as tourists, see how great it is here and then help the local housing industry by buying a house. Many sectors are involved in the tourism industry in the Valley in many ways.”

The Cowichan Valley Regional District approved a five-year agreement with the society last year in which it will receive $120,000 per year to deliver regional tourism marketing on behalf of the CVRD.

The agreement also allowed the society to pursue the implementation of a hotel tax on the Valley’s accommodation industry to help pay for destination marketing, and that’s expected to be in place by the middle of 2017.

The TCS had also been earmarked for $138,000 in funding from Destination BC last year, but that came with the condition that the money must be leveraged with funding from other local agencies and stakeholders, so the funding from the CVRD secured it for the society.

“Destination BC liked what we have done here so far, and has agreed to continue to work with us and grant us more funding this year as well,” Docherty said.

“It’s still too early in our efforts to gather quantitative data on how successful we have been so far in promoting tourism in the Valley, but we hope to have some fresh numbers by next year. But, in the meantime, we’re getting an amazing reaction to our new website and tourism campaign.”