Chamber looking for increased Visitor Information Centre funding

by Tristan Turner

Simon Boersma, President of the Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce, gave a brief presentation on the operations of the local Visitor Information Centre (VIC) during the Dec. 9 Council meeting. The centre offers information about the town and surrounding areas, particularly key tourist locations.

The Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce worked with Town of Morinville CAO Debbie Oyarzun in 2012 to develop a contract for services between the Town and Chamber to operate the Visitor Information Centre (VIC).

That contract outlined a $17,000 fee for service, monies to run the Visitor Information Center year round and provide the costs associated with maintaining official Travel Alberta Accreditation Status, a requirement for official VICs. Meeting those requirements includes having front desk staff available to respond to calls and in person questions.

The centre is open 20 hours a week from Labour Day until the end of June, and the hours double to 40 hours per week from July to the Labour Day weekend.

Chamber President Simon Boersma said the $17,000 currently given by the town falls short of the $27,000 the Chamber is currently spending running the centre. Boersma said the chamber has covered $23,000 in VIC losses over the past three years and that they are looking for the Town to fully fund the costs of operating the centre in 2015.

There was some confusion in regards to the stats provided for the amount of visitors the VIC received in 2014. Boersma’s verbal and slide presentation said that in 2013 the VIC had 163 guests but that only 110 guests visited the centre as of the end of November in 2014, numbers Boersma said were a little down from last year. After the Council meeting, Diane Mineault, Administrator for the Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce, shared that the number of 110 is only over the months of June through August 2014 and does not represent a year to date figure.

Boersma also said in his presentation the centre received “countless telephone requests for information and directions.” Mayor Holmes said she felt it would help their case more if accurate stats on phone calls and online requests were taken as is done for in-person visitors.

Deputy Mayor Stephen Dafoe asked Boersma if he had asked for funding outside of the town as the Visitor Information Centre also promotes tourism in the region. Boersma said he had looked but that he so far was unable to find other funding.

The 2014 Budget contained the standard $17,000 funding for the VIC. No member of Council made a motion to increase the amount during the debate that preceded Second Reading.

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