The District of Squamish has approved up to $150,000 in funding for Tourism Squamish, which has been providing the municipality with visitor information services for about a decade.
On Jan. 24, council voted unanimously in favour of two motions.
The first grants Tourism Squamish $100,000 to enact its strategic plan. The second motion would grant an additional $50,000, but only if the municipality obtains that amount of money through a grant from the province's B.C. Destination Development Fund.
A staff report summarized some of the Tourism Squamish's goals this year.
Two goals were highlighted with respect to destination marketing. One was to increase year-round visitation, in an effort to prevent peaks and sudden troughs in the tourism economy.
Another was to increase the length of visitor stays by converting day-trippers to overnight visitors. It's believed this would generate more revenue.
Goals to enhance visitors' experience were also mentioned.
This included providing travel advice through digital and mobile street teams, and the development of non-weather dependent experiences such as cultural activities or products.
There were also goals listed for destination development.
This included visitor management and education to reduce the negative impacts of overcrowding.
"Our ambassadors deliver information on how to recreate responsibly — messages such as, 'Don't Poop On The Trails,' 'Pack-in And Pack-out,' 'Leash Up Your Dogs,' 'Have A Trip Plan,' and best practices for handling wildlife encounters," said Heather Kawaguchi of Tourism Squamish.
Other goals included building positive resident sentiment regarding tourism as part of the industry's pandemic recovery, as well as advocating for tourism infrastructure and amenities.
Kawaguchi noted that things have been returning to normal since the start of the pandemic.
She said close to 85,000 people wer provided information by the visitor centre in 2022.
"For the first time since 2019, we saw the return of the broader Canadian domestic markets, in addition to the U.S. and European markets," Kawaguchi said.
Mayor Armand Hurford said he was pleased with the tourism industry's rebound.
"I think it's great just to see the return to pre-pandemic numbers and I really, truly, appreciate the visitor management piece," Hurford said.
"I think it's a crucial part, and, as we advance our joint goals of even more activity in the tourism sector, I think it's incredibly important that we keep our eyes on that particular piece so that we can maximize our benefit and do our best to mitigate any negative impacts."
Coun. Chris Pettingill said pre-pandemic he was optimistic there wouldn't be a need to have the community fund destination marketing, but COVID-19 has made that necessary.
Coun. Jenna Stoner said she approved the holistic approach to address education and outreach. She also said she appreciated the message of the 'Don't Love It To Death' campaign.
In the meantime, as part of a separate initiative, a provincially-funded $700,000 renovation to the Squamish Adventure Centre started on Feb. 24.
This will shut down the building for about two months.
As a result, Tourism Squamish will set up a virtual visitor centre while the construction is underway. Details can be found at exploresquamish.com.