The proposal to obtain a mobile visitors centre vehicle comes as the Burns Lake Visitors Centre and others in the province are seeing reduced interest from tourists who are relying more on online information during their travels. (Blair McBride photo)

Village seeks new mobile tourism vehicle

The Burns Lake village council has earmarked $11,000 for a tourism plan and a mobile visitor centre tied to an application for a $100,000 grant through the BC Rural Dividend Fund.

The decisions, made at its July 23 council meeting are aimed at better promoting tourism in the Burns Lake area.

The time has come for a new tourism plan because the village’s last one was updated in 2012, as Economic Development Officer Lorie Watson told council.

An updated plan would give new direction for tourism for the next three to five years.

And to get the wheels spinning a bit faster, Watson proposed the village invest in a tourism promotion vehicle.

“I met with the visitation centre and heard about their needs. I found that people with mobile technology aren’t stopping at visitation centres as much as they once were,” Watson explained about the Burns Lake Visitor Centre.

READ MORE: B.C. communities rethink visitor centres as tourists switch to smartphones

“The trend now is to go to where the people are and represent your community. [A mobile centre] is very visual on the highway, where they can attend multiple events and really attract people and engage them at events as well.”

Mobile visitor centres have popped up in several cities and towns across British Columbia.

Prince George has a Pathfinder vehicle that the city’s Visitor Information Centre has been operating since 2012, as Sherry McKay, Visitors Services Manager told Lakes District News.

It has a tent that staff set up when the vehicle stops at local events, where free merchandise and information is given out.

“We’re talking to lots of people. It’s been quite great. Good for spreading information about the trails and events in Prince George.

Closer to Burns Lake, the Visitors Centre in Smithers operates its Smithers Vibe, a Ford Edge that Visitors Centre staff have been driving to events in town since 2013. It’s also driven to campgrounds and staff give out information about Smithers.

“When I do go out people really enjoy having the information right there so they don’t have to go into town. It’s nice for the convenience. They like talking to someone at their campsite about events in town. That personal touch to tourism, having people engage a little bit more with things happening in Smithers and what they can do,” said Savannah Parsons, from the Smithers Visitors Centre.

The Vibe is funded by the Smithers Chamber of Commerce and by local businesses and organizations.

The Village of Burns Lake doesn’t currently have a vehicle that would be suitable as a mobile visitor’s centre, Watson said. The costs for such a vehicle could be submitted in the Rural Dividend grant application.

The $11,000 for the tourism and vehicle initiatives would be sourced from the Community Adjustment Fund if the Rural Dividend application is successful. If it isn’t successful, funding would have to be sought through other sources.

Blair McBride
Multimedia reporter
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