RDN looking to Chamber to run Gabriola tourism

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, February 21 2017

Promoting tourism for Gabriola will, for 2017 at least, be the responsibility of the Gabriola Island Chamber of Commerce, as funded by the taxpayers of the Regional District of Nanaimo Electoral Area B (Gabriola, Mudge, DeCourcy islands).

That is one of the recommendations that will be coming to the RDN Board when it meets at the end of February.

The Chamber will be contracted for a period of six months at a rate of $1,000 per month to fill the gap left when the Nanaimo Economic Development Commission (NEDC) and Tourism Nanaimo were disbanded by the City of Nanaimo on January 31, 2017.

The NEDC and Tourism Nanaimo had been contracted to promote tourism for Area B, as well as Areas A, C and the City of Nanaimo, since 2012, when RDN taxpayers began funding the Southern Communities Economic Development (SCED) service.

Area B was to have put $64,144 towards that service for the next fiscal year. According to the staff report, there will be no changes to that amount during the interim year of coverage from the Gabriola Chamber.

Gloria Hatfield, Chamber President, said in a statement issued this past Friday that, “The promotion of Gabriola helps every business, directly or indirectly, on this island. Every one of us is inter-related somehow. With the dismantling of the tourism marketing organization in Nanaimo, it is critical that Gabriola pick up, as soon as possible, the efforts that have been discontinued. And as we know, with change comes opportunity and, in this case, we see a very exciting opportunity for our island, bringing the promotion of tourism from Nanaimo to Gabriola.

“The Chamber will not only ensure we do not lose the momentum created by the team at Tourism Nanaimo, but we also see ways to build on the successes by expanding the Chamber’s existing role in marketing the island, as well as the work that can be done collaborating with our local businesses and other associations within the region. Who better to be able to find the perfect balance of helping Gabriolans thrive while maintaining and protecting the wonderful character and nature that is our island, than Gabriolans themselves?”

While the Chamber will be paid the $1,000 a month to provide the services, the Gabriola organization has also proposed a budget utilizing some of the balance of the SCED funds; $10,000 is requested to undertake a targeted participatory planning session aimed at industry and business stakeholders on Gabriola. Additional funds for advertising and design are also requested within the proposal put forward by the Chamber.

In her letter to the RDN outlining the Chamber’s proposal, Hatfield writes that part of the strategic planning should “adapt and incorporate findings from the Gabriola Economic Readiness Project Report [released in early 2016].

“Much time and energy was placed in the creation of this report and fantastic foundational learnings were reported. From that, the Gabriola Chamber has based much of its past year’s work towards accomplishing recommendations made in the report.”

She also notes the need for community, stakeholder and regional government engagement, as well as to be aware of the guiding principles, themes and priorities coming out of the Village Vision process.

Longer term, the Regional District of Nanaimo staff will be reporting back to RDN Electoral Area Services Committee (EASC) on organizing strategic planning sessions for the purpose of determining the best option for providing economic development and tourism promotion for Electoral Areas A, B and C including budget implications and timelines.

Long term could mean the RDN continuing to contract the Chamber to conduct both tourism and economic development functions for Gabriola. Another option outlined by staff could be an arms-length corporation owned by Area B with the mandate of promoting tourism and economic development (the model used for the NEDC)