July 22, 2022 – 7:00 PM
The tourist information centre in Kamloops closed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but tourists shouldn’t expect it to open up again any time soon.
Before the pandemic, Tourism Kamloops was already planning to make its operations mobile with the BOLD Street Team, instead of waiting for tourists to come to the info centre across from Aberdeen Mall.
“On a typical day, people were coming in and out, but the reality was the majority were coming to use the bathroom or looking at other destinations like Vancouver, Banff or Jasper,” Tourism Kamloops CEO Monica Dickinson said.
The tourism centre was getting around 1,500 “meaningful interactions” per year she said, but Kamloops gets more than one million tourists in a year. They shifted to the mobile street team in an effort to meet with more tourists, not because of the pandemic.
Before July 2020, the tourist info centre was permanently closed, but Dickinson said the organization hasn’t ruled out a new bricks-and-mortar location.
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Last year, Tourism Kamloops launched a pilot project to host water sport rentals at the now-demolished Riverside Park concession stand. The organization also stationed its street team there.
Dickinson was excited for the project and there was anticipation in the community but it largely wasn’t successful, which she blamed on the heat dome and wildfire smoke.
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The old concession stand was torn down as part of the City’s $5 million construction project at the central riverfront park. There are plans for a new washroom and changeroom, but none yet to replace the concession stand site.
Dickinson wouldn’t say whether Tourism Kamloops will look at pursuing a new information centre at Riverside Park, but she’ll be looking to the City for its plans next summer.
“We have been in conversation about what is the opportunity for that location there next summer,” she said when asked about reviving the watersport rental program.
Dickinson also said that the organization is going to look for new locations for the potential next info centre. When asked about Riverside Park, she said she’s “open to the possibility.”
“For this season, the BOLD Street Team is our focus,” she said.
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The street team can be found with their branded Jeep Wrangler at local trail heads, parks and businesses, the tourist info centre remains closed to the public and simply used for office space.
The info centre at the corner of Hillside Drive and Highway 1 still generates plenty of traffic, Dickinson said, because there is a sani-dump for RVs and EV charging stations. Travelers will often check the door for a public washroom and find it’s locked.
She isn’t bothered by that since she’d rather send tourists to find public washrooms near local businesses, like Aberdeen Mall across the street.
In the Okanagan, Tourism Kelowna’s information centre was once along Harvey Avenue, attracting mostly vehicle traffic, until a new one was built downtown along the waterfront.
It was met with controversy and debate during the public hearing process in 2017, but eventually passed and now stands in a more pedestrian-friendly area near Stuart Park.
Since the Kelowna information centre was moved to Stuart Park, its jumped to 73,000 visitors already so far this year, compared to 17,000 annually at its Harvey Avenue location, according to Carla Bechard of Tourism Kelowna.
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