The tourism booth on Marine Drive should be scrapped in perpetuity as part of the redevelopment of Memorial Park.
That’s the recommendation in a report to White Rock council from recreation and culture director Eric Stepura.
The report endorsed a study of the city’s visitor-services strategy undertaken by Vardo Creative, a consultancy with expertise in tourism-service delivery.
An overview of that study was delivered to council last week by Vardo’s Susan Rybar.
Both Stepura and Rybar noted the current waterfront Visitors Centre – which has shown a marked decline in usage by out-of-town visitors since 2013 – involves a significant use of budget resources and staff time for relatively few returns.
At the same time, Rybar said, the tourism industry generally is moving away from “bricks and mortar” visitors centres to information provided on a number of digital online platforms.
The Visitors Centre was one of the last visible vestiges of the previous Tourism White Rock organization – which included an uptown office – closed down by council at the end of 2015. Last spring, the city commissioned Tourism Surrey to take over the kiosk and create marketing strategies for White Rock.
Highest use of the centre – 74 per cent – is by locals and day visitors and the kind of hard-copy marketing information they require could be provided more cost-effectively at other venues, both Rybar and Stepura suggested.
The current Visitors Centre is slated for demolition as part of the city’s Memorial Park plans to create more open space in the public plaza and better entertainment viewing for those seated on the lawn and the planned amphitheatre seating, Stepura’s report to council states.
Rybar and Stepura recommended that, rather than replace the kiosk with a similar structure at another location – budgeted for $80,000 – Tourism White Rock should partner with White Rock Museum and Archives and the city’s uptown community centre to provide high-traffic locations where people can pick up such hard-copy information as visitor guides and maps.
Rybar noted, however, that council and staff should examine the provision of above-ground parking around the community centre – where pay parking is currently being charged – to see if some accommodation could be reached for visitors to the city making brief stops to pick up information.
Rybar’s presentation also noted that White Rock should be looking to develop its tourism appeal to draw longer visits, rather than its current status as a day-trip destination.
Other recommendations of the Vardo study included developing an on-the-ground ambassador team during peak times and events on the waterfront promenade, and to ensure a consistent training program for frontline staff that encourages incremental spending and repeat visits and aligns with the current Explore White Rock brand.
The study also recommends continuing partnership with Tourism Surrey – including social-media engagement, and targeted mobile opportunities to promote visits to White Rock – and also exploration of the use of iBeacon technology to create greater engagement with visitors.