Smithers has a new tourism society. The Tourism Smithers Society is touting itself as the destination marketing organization for Smithers.
Board chair Al McCreary said the need for an independent society arose when Town funding ended for the Bulkley Valley Economic Development Association (BVEDA) and it closed its doors last year. Tourism was previously under the umbrella of BVEDA for the last seven years.
“We feel tourism has always been an important part of the Smithers economy. We’ve been around for 24 years in some form or another and this is just ensuring a continuation of the promotion of Smithers and its amenities to the marketplace,” he said.
McCreary added he’s looking forward to continue to sell Smithers, including the popular Ski and Stay program.
“Early on, our mandate and focus was to increase the occupancy of the hotels in the winter season and that is still a high priority but now we also do summer promotions to encourage people to drive Highway 16 and stay, golf or whatever, just to stay,” he said.
Last year, hotel owners in Smithers agreed to raise the accommodation tax from two to three per cent to increase the tourism marketing budget.
“There is a small contribution from the Town but the majority of the money comes from the hotel tax and the balance of the budget comes from what we call joint programs. For example, the Ski And Stay: hotels put in anywhere from $2,500-5,000 and then we run the ski and stay program,” explained McCreary.
The accommodation tax is expected to bring in $180,000 per year.
Aside from McCreary, who brings knowledge of the industry from his 35-plus years with Hudson Bay Lodge, the board also includes Colin Bateman of The Aspen Inn, Angie Eccleston of the Prestige Hudson Bay Lodge, Oscar’s Fly and Tackle Shop owner Alex Bussman, and Wendy Perry who has worked in tourism for the past 20 years.
Gladys Atrill will serve as executive director. She has been in the tourism marketing business for the past 18 years and also currently serves as a Smithers councillor and deputy mayor.