Tourism in Mission may be in for a major overhaul.
With plans already in the works to develop Stave West into a recreational tourism destination in the coming years, council was presented with a four-year transitional plan to change the way the community promotes itself.
The proposal is to take tourism out of the district’s economic development office in favour of creating a stand-alone, industry-managed Destination Marketing Organization (DMO).
The district is being asked to spend $670,000 over the next four years to help with the transition.
According to a staff report, Mission is one of the only communities of its size in southwestern B.C. that does not have a funded DMO. Because of that, the report says Mission cannot compete with other Fraser Valley communities to attract tourism investment and visitors.
If the DMO is created, a board of eight to 10 members from the tourism industry – such as hotel and restaurants – and a representative from council would be appointed.
Coun. Pam Alexis said she sees a lot of favourable aspects to the idea, saying tourism in Mission has not been given the attention it deserves.
“This investment in tourism is a long time coming. We are going to have to play catch-up with all of our neighbours. It is certainly going to require an investment from council, but I don’t know how that will look or when that might happen.”
Alexis said she is hopeful council will “embrace” the idea because the sooner they “get on it, the more we can capture the opportunities around us.”
But Mayor Randy Hawes was more skeptical about how much money was required to fund the transition and who should be providing those funds.
He said his major difficulty with the proposal is that there is no financial participation from the people who directly benefit, meaning companies in the tourism industry.
“So, in essence, what it is – which I learned many years ago that you should always stay away from – is a ‘with our brains and your money, we can do really great things.’ That’s the message I heard,” Hawes said.
He wants to know if the plan is as good as the consultants say, then why is the tourist industry only going to start contributing to it four years down the road?
Hawes also said he doesn’t see how seniors and other taxpayers who are not in the tourism industry are going to directly benefit and he has a problem asking them to pay for the proposal.
“Really, what I’m doing here, I believe, is supporting what I think is the majority, who will say, ‘Wait a minute. Why are we funding all of this and the people who are going to directly benefit are putting in no money?’ ”
He said the argument that all of the community, to some degree, will benefit indirectly may be true, but that doesn’t mean they should financially support those businesses – such as hotels, restaurants and fishing charters – who directly benefit.
But Alexis feels the overall benefit is worth exploring and that the tourism industry does want to invest.
“They (tourism operators) want to make an investment, just like any other business wants to make an investment. But they want to make sure that investment pays off and that Mission is ready for that.”
She believes this is the right time for council to act.
Council has deferred the issue until its Dec. 19 meeting.
If approved, the Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce would continue to operate the Visitor Information Centre until 2020 and manage the formation of the DMO.