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Tourism Mission unveils 5-year strategic plan for attracting tourism dollars

Target: more seniors, over-nighters, and distant markets
Tourism Mission’s plan is a balancing act between growth and keeping the city’s small-town feel, and between local sentiment and visitor needs. Screenshot from May 16 report to council.

Tourism Mission unveiled their five-year plan to bring in dollars from abroad.

The goal: more senior visitors, turn day-trippers to over-nighters, and reach more distant markets.

Staff presented their 2022-2026 strategic plan to council on May 16, which was approved unanimously, with a consideration for a $25,000 budget increase next year.

Mission’s current out-of-towners are generally from the Lower Mainland, Okanagan, and Alberta.

They visit for road trips, outdoor recreation, visits to family and friends, festivals and events, and film tourism, according to the Tourism Mission report; the average age is 25 to 34, 75 per cent are Canadian, nine per cent are from the U.S.,

The target audience should be 55 to 65-years-old, and the plans should utilize Abbotsford Airport to bring in from eastern Canada and international tourists.

The plan lays out five pillars: research and industry support, destination marketing, destination development, communication and advocacy, and visitor serving, education and stewardship.

Strategically speaking, it’s a balancing act between developing tourism sustainably alongside Mission’s population growth (projected to reach over 50,000 by 2027) and keeping the city’s “small-town feel.”

Another balancing act is gauging local sentiment and visitor needs. Staff said there have been examples through the pandemic when conflict has arisen if neighbourhoods feel overwhelmed.

The plan will create both a visitor management plan and emergency plan for procedures like wildfires.

On the marketing side, the department focuses on creating a strong brand to advertise to the film industry and to support sports-tourism, which can pull in visitors for multi-day events. The brand also helps with funding opportunities, staff said.

The plan wants to develop tourism by making infrastructure upgrades, attracting tourism-related businesses, and supporting the Indigenous cultural experience (while being respectful).

Some of Mission’s current weaknesses related to tourism are a lack of accommodations, market awareness, transportation without vehicles, tourism infrastructure, and evening experiences, according to the report.

It says that Tourism Mission’s success will be based around building partnerships between various community stakeholders.

“This is vital for growth in any sector, but is incredibly important and critical within the tourism sector,” staff said.

Staff said they’ve already built alliances with the Stave West Leadership Team, BC Route 7 and the Fraser Valley Group, and are working at cultivating relationships with local First Nations.

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