An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
SOMETIMES GOVERNMENT just makes bad decisions.
The landmark B.C. Visitor Centre at the junction of the Coquihalla Highway and the Okanagan Connector was shut down in January, leaving the City of Merritt to take up the slack as best it can.
On Canada Day, the City unveiled a new mobile tourism information trailer as part of its efforts to fill the gap. The trailer was paid for with a grant from Destination BC, the same Crown corporation that shut down the information centre at exit 286.
Merritt also continues with its information booth at Baillie House in downtown Merritt, and has a Tourism Ambassador program.
That’s called stepping up. However, none of that can replace the visitor centre out on the highway that for many years provided a place for tourists to take a break from driving, hit the washrooms, get a snack and some information.
I love it when the wordsmiths are called in to rationalize an unpopular decision. Listen to this: “Destination BC is transitioning visitor services in Merritt from a provincial model to a community model, to allow for a more flexible, location-based, customer-centric model aligning to the unique services required by travelers and local businesses in the area.”
In other words, “we’re taking something away and offloading it to the community.”
The rationale is that the visitor centre needed expensive upgrading and visitor numbers were down. Sure, that’s the effect of social media.
Here’s what I think the provincial tourism people are missing. Local tourism is intricately tied in with regional tourism. Tourists don’t draw boundaries. They judge their experience by the enjoyment of the trip, the sites they see and the service they receive.
The Exit 286 centre catered to that overall experience. If we want to encourage tourism, we have to think in terms of integration of the whole. Dumping it onto the shoulders of local communities for the sake of saving some bucks is false economy.
That visitor centre should be renovated and re-opened.
Mel Rothenburger’s Armchair Mayor editorials appear Mondays through Thursdays on CFJC- TV. His Armchair Mayor column is published Saturdays on ArmchairMayor.ca and CFJC Today. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.