TOP: TOTA Community Development Specialist Simone Carlysle-Smith made a presentation to SILGA and staffed TOTA's booth at the convention, meeting and networking with local government leaders.
BOTTOM: Robyn Cyr, Shuswap Tourism's leader who is also Economic Development Officer and Film Commissioner for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District - and a TOTA Board member - staffed the Shuswap Tourism display at the SILGA convention.
TOTA recently took the opportunity to connect with local government leaders from across the Thompson Okanagan and remind them of tourism's key role in the economy and the need to work together to develop and grow the industry.
Chief Executive Officer Glenn Mandziuk and Community Development Specialist Simone Carlysle-Smith carried the TOTA banner to the 2012 convention of the Southern Interior Local Government Association (SILGA), held April 26-28 in Revelstoke. For a third year TOTA was a gold-level sponsor at the convention.
Mandziuk told the 200 politicians in attendance from 37 cities, towns and regional districts that tourism in the region accounts for more than $1.7 billion in economic activity, supports thousands of jobs and businesses in their communities, and is a bigger industry than mining or forestry.
Mandziuk was given a special opportunity to speak to SILGA delegates about the draft new Regional Tourism Strategy developed over the past year by industry stakeholders. He presented details of the summer-heavy seasonality of the region's tourism industry and the Strategy's road-map for developing more visitor experiences in all seasons around such themes as iconic and authentic Thompson Okanagan experiences, experiencing local flavours, telling the stories of the region's people, and helping visitors expand their personal horizons. He noted this will likely include efforts to develop more destinations and travel packages around events, trails, Aboriginal culture, wine & culinary, and visitor services.
The TOTA CEO said the objectives of the 10-year Regional Tourism Strategy are to maximize the value of tourism to the regional economy, to substantially increase the length of the visitor season, and to maximize the spread of the benefits of tourism around the region.
Mandziuk and Carlysle-Smith both emphasized the need for TOTA, local governments and the tourism industry to work in close partnership to promote the community-level planning that will support and grow tourism.
In her presentation to SILGA delegates, Carlysle-Smith said TOTA and Tourism BC, which TOTA represents in the region, work closely with a growing number of communities across the Thompson Okanagan to support their tourism planning and development. She noted that funding over the past year from the provincial Community Tourism Opportunities (CTO) program provided $250,000 in direct funding into communities in the region for tourism development projects.
She also pointed to the example of Tourism Shuswap, which in recent years undertook extensive area tourism planning, supported by Tourism BC's Community Tourism Foundations (CTF) program, and then tourism development projects, supported by its CTO program. This activity led to the award-winning branding of tourism for the Shuswap, development of an active website and tourism communications program, an extensive trails development project, and other productive tourism initiatives.
Carlysle-Smith praised the leadership of Robyn Cyr, Shuswap Tourism's leader who is also Economic Development Officer and Film Commissioner for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, for her recognition of the valuable role of partnerships and planning in developing the local tourism industry. Cyr is also a member of TOTA's Board of Directors.
Carlysle-Smith told SILGA delegates it is important that each community have a 'point person' assigned to tourism development, so they can liaise with TOTA and Tourism BC and make the most of regional and provincial support programs.
"Local government is a crucial partner in developing the tourism industry," Carlysle-Smith said. "Through community visioning, the Official Community Plans, local infrastructure decisions, business relations, and the support of marketing and visitor services, local Councils are key players in the development of their communities' tourism sector – and that sector can play a big part in the success of the local economy."
Carlysle-Smith also staffed a TOTA display booth during the three-day SILGA convention, meeting one-on-one with delegates, explaining programs, and distributing information materials about TOTA and Tourism BC support programs for local tourism development.
"The SILGA convention gives us a great opportunity to reach out to our partners in local government – to raise awareness about the importance of tourism for the economic development of communities," she says.