Spring is officially here and so is the start of the busy tourist season in the Creston Valley.
The Creston Valley Chamber of Commerce operates the local visitor centre for the Town of Creston and Regional District of Central Kootenay areas B and C. Funded in part by the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation, we are members of the BC Visitor Centres network and are available to provide people with tourist information, assistance and advice. Identified by the distinctive blue-and-yellow logo, we provide a wide range of visitor services, including professional visitor counseling, helpful travel information and literature, and accommodation reservations. Throughout B.C., visitor centres specialize in community information and provincial itinerary planning with friendly and personalized service.
Last year, over 15,000 visitors come into the centre (located in the Armitage Building at 121 Northwest Blvd.) asking for directions, looking for accommodations and/or a place to eat, things to do and to use the public washroom. We keep daily records and report them back to the ministry. Tourists come from all over but predominantly from other parts of B.C., Alberta, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and central Europe (Germany, Austria and Switzerland).
Visitor centres are often the first place of contact for tourists. We are constantly working to improve the visitor experience, pique their interest in the community and encourage longer stays. We have a rotating display of local art in the building — currently the Wynndel Arts Centre has its works exhibited. We will also be a location of the annual Artwalk/Artdrive. Last year, we added the large electronic message board outside so we can run community event notices around the clock. We added RV signage, encouraging RV traffic to stop and shop in the Creston Valley, and added free Wi-Fi.
We just changed our display shelves inside, making it easier to browse through the brochures and local information. In March, we received a tourism grant and are adding a 3D map of the Columbia Basin, a big screen TV for showing local images, new potted plants and a bike rack for outside, and a baby change table.
Annually, the chamber of commerce publishes, in partnership with the Creston Valley Advance, a comprehensive visitors’ guide magazine. The magazine includes maps, the ferry schedule, the Farm Fresh Guide and is a great introduction to our community. The 2012 Visitors’ Guide will be available this month. We constantly work with Hello BC, Kootenay Rockies Tourism and the International Selkirk Loop to keep information current. In January, KRT launched the Kootenay App, a mobile directory of things to see and do in the Creston Valley.
Now, if we can just get some sunshine…
Another sign of spring is the upcoming Home and Garden Show on April 20 and 21 at the Creston and District Community Complex. The Creston Valley Chamber of Commerce puts on this annual trade show. It is a great opportunity for local businesses to showcase their products, promote new lines, increase awareness and reach new customers. 3,000 people will attend the show. This year, we have partnered with Columbia Basin Trust and Home Hardware Building Centre. There are still spaces available. To book your booth, call the chamber of commerce at 250-428-4342.
Jim Jacobsen is the executive director of the Creston Valley Chamber of Commerce.