In the ongoing intrigue-fuelled, behind-closed-doors process surrounding the final decision about the location of the proposed Revelstoke Tourism Information Centre, the highway-versus-downtown location debate has popped up again.
Advocates of the highway option argue it is the logical choice because it would net some of the highway traffic that cruises past Revelstoke daily. So, is it the case?
Many may not be aware there has been a tourism info centre operating next to the highway in Woodenhead Park since early June.
Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce executive director John Devitt says it’s been a slow start. The centre is housed in an info centre that was originally built for the 2010 Olympics. It was announced earlier this year, seen then as part of an end of the highway-versus-downtown debate; the long-planned new tourism centre would be located downtown, and the kiosk would compliment it at the highway.
Devitt said the chamber-run kiosk has had a slow start. Its contemporary look has confused some. “At first people thought it was a BC Hydro kiosk,” Devitt told the Times Review. Some even came in ready to pay their electric bill.
The numbers haven’t been overwhelming, but are improving. Devitt said they are working on better signage to direct motorists to the location.
He notes that conversion rates are “very, very low.” Out of all those who stop in, an estimated 90 per cent of them are looking for info on other places, like hotel reservations in the Shuswap or shopping centres in Kamloops. Only 10 per cent are looking for information about what to do in Revelstoke.
On the other hand, the downtown tourist centre in Grizzly Plaza has a 60/40 split in the other direction. Devitt says the typical tourist shows up in Revelstoke, gets a taste of the downtown vibe, and then looks for a place to stay or something to do the next day.
He says the highway kiosk “is better than nothing,” but feels the downtown versus highway debate was ended years ago. “We can’t be putting all of our eggs in one basket,” he said. “[The conversion rate] is not nearly as high as people suspect it will be.”
As for what’s happening with the final downtown location decision, that’s still not clear, and there’s not much new to add since we looked into the story in late June. A steering committee consisting of members from the Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce, Community Futures Revelstoke and the City of Revelstoke had been zeroing in on a downtown location, likely one of the city-owned parking lots adjacent to Grizzly Plaza. They had secured funding through the Columbia Basin Trust and Tourism Infrastructure funding and were looking for a land donation from the city.
From the outsider’s perspective, that process had ground to a halt as forces close to city hall wrangle over where to locate it, including on the city lots, or a private option on land located on Victoria Avenue next to the B.C. Liquor Store. It seems other options are still on the table — including out on the highway.
Devitt is convinced what Revelstoke needs to market is its downtown heritage and shopping district. “It’s important that we market our best asset,” he said.
He admits no decision will be perfect. “It’s not going to please everyone,” Devitt said. “It should be about pleasing our visitors.”