Tofino exports successful Ambassador program

Vancouver Island communities are looking to replicate Tofino’s successes.

Officials from several Island communities arrived in Tofino on Monday to experience the Tofino-Long Beach Chamber of Commerce’s Ambassador Program and possibly gather seeds to grow similar programs for their own visitors and locals.

In the laughing words of Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce executive director Kim Burden “we’re going to R and D it: rob and duplicate.”

Burden had heard high praise for the rogram and after experiencing it for himself on Tuesday dished out high praise of his own.

“We came over to see if it would fit in our communities and yes it will,” he said.

He said the program’s most impressive feat is its ability to incorporate “all the elements of a small community” into one solid presentation.

“As small businesses in small communities the only thing we have to go on is the ability to outserve larger communities,” he said. “It’s about the experience of the traveler, not about what they see or do, and we want to provide the best experience possible.”

The endorsements from other community leaders rung equally loud.

“We’ve heard about this program and wanted to see whether we could implement something similar in Port Alberni,” said Bill Collette of the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce. “We’d love to pursue it and we will, hopefully in the foreseeable future.”

Collette’s Alberni Valley chamber colleague Michelle Wood matched his enthusiasm.

“Tofino is a recognizable destination to many people who come to the Island and I think we want to make Port Alberni stand out and be the same,” she said.

“We’re always exploring ways to improve what we do as a community,” Luchtmeijer said. “We have a very attractive community but we also want to make sure that people who visit our community have the best experience possible. We know Tofino is working very hard on that aspect-they gave a wonderful presentation at the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance Convention (VIEAC) in Nanaimo last year-and we thought we better

Qualicum Beach councillors Mary Brouilette and Bill Luchtmeijer were stoked on bringing the lessons they learned in Tofino back to their Qualicum base.

Luchtmeijer believes the Tofitiancreated program would be successful in Qualicum because of strong similarities between both communities, notably pride and interest in natural history.

His fellow councillor Brouilette agreed.

“We came over to check out the program because we heard about it at (VIEAC) and it sounded like a great plan for many communities so we wanted to see how it went and we were very impressed,” Brouilette said.

She said Qualicum will work to tailor the program for its own locals with an especially keen eye on the historical and cultural components.

The Qualicum Beach chamber of commerce expressed support as well.

“It’s a great program and it would be really, really, nice to be able to deliver it in Qualicum Beach where we live and kudos to (Tofino) for creating such a welcoming program for people,

and teaching people about what goes on in Tofino,” said Evelyn Clark, president and CEO of the Qualicum Beach chamber.

Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne was thrilled but not surprised by the positive reception.

“Over the past few years we’ve had more and more enquiries from tourism associations and municipalities about the success of our ambassador program so it’s thrilling to see people here from Parksville, Qualicum and Port Alberni to share the success of our program and they’ve all said they learned things about Tofino which is fantastic,” she said.

While she is happy to see other communities working towards bringing the program to their own locals, she is hopeful Tofitians will take advantage of what’s at their doorstep.

“I wish that every single local in Tofino could take this program. (Whether) you’ve lived here for 30 years, all your life, or you’ve only been here for 6 months, you will learn something.”

The Tofino-Long Beach chamber runs the program in partnership with the Raincoast Education Society and more information about the free program and how to sign up can be found on the chamber’s website at www.tofinochamber.org.

reporter@westerlynews.ca