Thursday June 1, 2023 | COLWOOD, BC
by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
Destination Greater Victoria (DGV) has held some engagement sessions — one in Colwood, one in Saanichton and one in downtown Victoria, to sense the pulse of the Greater Victoria region as to tourism over the next 10 years.
In those sessions they have hoped to glean some fresh ideas and feedback about possible future attractions that would appeal to visitors who arrive for conventions, on cruise ships, and in response to a range of marketing initiatives that make Victoria a must-see place.
As well, the 10-year Tourism Master Plan consultants have engaged with 10 focus groups and have done 35 one-on-one interviews. The range of input is from local businesses, associations, accommodations, experience providers, Indigenous partners, social and civic organizations, and government.
Online public input:
Their online survey — running now through June 30 — will round out the range of contributions.
To participate in the Destination Greater Victoria online tourism survey, visit www.tourismvictoria.com/destination-master-planning. The survey is open to Friday June 30, 2023.
The survey takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes to complete. Participants can complete the survey once per IP address.
Consultants Paul Ouimet of Vancouver and Cassandra McAuley of Calgary are with Next Factor Inc. They are in Victoria this month to carry out the DGV project work.
Next Factor Inc was started by Ouimet in 2015, joining forces with MMGY Global in 2019. MMGY is the world’s largest integrated marketing company specializing in the travel, tourism and hospitality industries. Some of Ouimet’s work here on Vancouver Island has included doing strategic plans for the Victoria Airport Authority.
MMGY Global promotes itself as having “a knack for finding uncharted territory and blazing new trails”.
Destination Greater Victoria says it is committed to achieving positive economic, environmental, and social outcomes through sustainable tourism in the region, and the development of the Master Plan will be carried out in collaboration with MMGY NextFactor and FLOOR13, two industry-leading and globally recognized consulting firms specializing in travel and tourism.
In addition to seeking input and feedback from Greater Victoria residents, DGV says that the development of the Tourism Master Plan will include a comprehensive data collection and community engagement process that distills input from local businesses, associations, accommodations, experience providers, Indigenous partners, social and civic organizations, and government.
Working for Destination Greater Victoria, the Next Factor consultants are looking for “big ideas to improve the visitor experience, target new audiences and set a course for sustainable responsible growth”.
There is a desire to address conference facility needs, hotel development, transportation links, harbour and other infrastructure opportunities.
So far, they seem to have determined that increasing the tourism footprint in the Greater Victoria area is about more than marketing the beauty and outdoor activities of the region, but will in future years require new and more tourist attractions.
In particular, if conference delegates and cruise ship passengers are going to travel beyond the downtown Victoria area, the incentive needs to be strong. They mentioned possibly encouraging the development of more boutique hotels outside of downtown and into “the suburb communities”. Agri-tourism was mentioned toward the end (giving food and wine trail development as two options).
They want to improve on visitor data collection.
West shore input:
At the engagement session in the west shore yesterday (at the boat house meeting room facility at the foot of the Royal Roads University campus in Colwood), it was immediately evident that culture, heritage, arts and food attractions were not yet on the list. The opening list was mostly about outdoor recreation and sightseeing, as well as sports tourism.
Especially in the west shore there is a wealth of commercial opportunity to showcase artists, restaurants, and museum-type displays including along walkable trails (Galloping Goose, E&N, etc). The new area under development in Royal Bay — including the Royal BC Museums collections building coming fully online in 2026 — is otherwise under-served with tourism attractions.
In the Sooke and Metchosin region there are already well-established summer festivals and concerts, art tours and farmer’s markets which tourists would likely find unique.
The Sooke Region Museum is one specific destination that already exists, but major corporate funding might be used to launch new attractions outside of downtown Victoria, beyond 2D & 3D static displays. Even a new style of attraction using displays guided by artificial intelligence was offered up for consideration.
Who was there:
Representing Destination Greater Victoria at the May 31 west shore session were Graham Wallace, VP Strategy, Governance and Stakeholder Engagement who introduced the consultants; Jeremy Loveday, Director of Public Affairs,Destination Stewardship and Sustainability (former Victoria City Councillor); Astrid Chang, Executive Director, Corporate Communications and Community Relations (previously Manager of Corporate Communications with BC Ferries); Heather Oughtred, Manager Member Services; and a business researcher.
Wallace emphasized the importance of input from residents in the region. He says they’re “looking for things we might be missing”.
In recent years, Destination Greater Victoria emerged as a rebranding of the former Tourism Victoria.
The west shore input was participated in by View Royal Councillor John Rogers; long-time west shore news publisher Mary P Brooke; and a retired hospitality operator who had been part of Swiss Air in Toronto as well as owning a hotel in Europe before working in sales for The Empress Hotel (now Fairmont Empress).
Concerts & new large venues:
Tourism in the Greater Victoria area could possibly benefit from new attractions just slightly beyond Victoria (not as far as the west shore), such as in Esquimalt and Saanich. A new type of performing arts center might be reliable for concert bookings.
The Victoria Conference Centre conjoined with The Fairmont Empress Hotel will see its current lease end in 12 years. For the timeline it takes to build new facilities, it could be the right time for large investors to look at building a new or second venue of that type.
The presenters noted that post-pandemic people want to get back to in-person activities, including conventions. They are seeing that the hybrid model (livestream of in-person events) is beginning to experience waning interest.
Their goal is to see more people back on cruise ships (even more ships than at present), and on planes and ferries, coming to Victoria for conventions year-round.
Destination Greater Victoria (DGV) is also hoping to maintain its various ‘shoulder season’ attractions (outside of the busy summer season). The consultants expressed their amazement at how DGV has ‘flattened the curve’ in recent years, i.e. eliminated the spikes of busy vs slow seasons.
Changing the tone of downtown Victoria:
Downtown Victoria still has a lot of tourist-style souvenir shops and traditional retail and some small coffee shops and restaurants. Introducing European-style use of streets and patios year-round might change the tone of the downtown Victoria experience.
That change might include deflecting the use of downtown streets by people who are finding themselves homeless and might discourage the level of crime that the downtown business area has endured at various times.
Downtown Victoria is primarily day-time business and tourists there for a short stay (such as off the cruise ships). Adapting the offerings to a broader, more interactive, broader age-friendly and accessible-friendly experience might turn things in a more positive direction for visitors, residents, businesses and the tourism sector overall.
Getting people efficiently from downtown out to various attractions will rely on efficient transportation … whether that’s ride share, taxis, tour buses, or public transit.
Options for buses direct to the ferry as well as the airport were noted as needing more efficiency, frequency, and availability. For example, there is room for a bus line direct from Langford to the ferry out at Swartz Bay. A bus hub at Uptown Centre was suggested as part of the success for getting people to the ferry and airport.
The recent launch of the RapidBus 95 route from Langford into downtown was promoted from a downtown Victoria angle (none of the west shore mayors attended the announcement which was held on the sidewalk out front of the BC Legislative Buildings). Still, using public transit at whatever level of efficiency doesn’t always serve tourists, who need tight timelines and specific guidance.
===== ABOUT ISLAND SOCIAL TRENDS:
Island Social Trends is professional regional journalism at islandsocialtrends.ca. Fully online as a daily news portal since mid-2020, Island Social Trends emerged from the path of previous print publications in the west shore: MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010), Sooke Voice News (2011-2013), and West Shore Voice News (2014-2020).
Since 2008, journalist and editor Mary P Brooke has taken a socioeconomic lens to reporting and analyzing the news of the west shore and south Vancouver Island region, including BC and national news impacts. [See Island Social Trends Politics Archive]. She has covered the details of local, provincial and federal elections since 2008. As of 2023 Mary P Brooke reports with the BC Legislative Press Gallery.
Mary P Brooke has also focused on news of School District 62 (Langford, Colwood and Sooke) at the board level since 2014 [see Island Social Trends Education archive] and has covered West Shore Parks & Recreation over the years (particularly the transitional years of 2014-2020). During 2020 and 2021 she reported daily on BC’s COVID pandemic news to build the ongoing COVID pandemic archive. Since 2021 she has been building a Food Security news archive.