From left, Destination BC CEO Marsha Walden smiles wide as Tourism Tofino’s past chair JJ Belanger and current chair Shane Richards cut a ceremonial ribbon alongside Charles McDiarmid, Joe Martin and Nancy Cameron during the new $2 million Cox Bay visitor centre’s grand opening event on June 26. (Photo - Andrew Bailey)

From left, Destination BC CEO Marsha Walden smiles wide as Tourism Tofino’s past chair JJ Belanger and current chair Shane Richards cut a ceremonial ribbon alongside Charles McDiarmid, Joe Martin and Nancy Cameron during the new $2 million Cox Bay visitor centre’s grand opening event on June 26. (Photo - Andrew Bailey)

Tofino officially opens new $2M visitor centre at Cox Bay

“You’ve created a facility this town can be proud of and is a great place to welcome visitors.”

Serendipitous sunshine glowed through the large windows of Tofino’s new Cox Bay Visitor Centre, helping the new $2 million building shine in its debut as the town gathered to celebrate the official opening on June 26.

“We were on time and on budget,” beamed Tourism Tofino chair Shane Richards from a podium set up in a corner of the new 1,400 sq. ft. tourist-educating space. He credited the “excellent project planning” of Parksville’s MKM Projects Ltd. for their constructive collaboration.

The town’s destination marketing organization Tourism Tofino announced its intention to replace its Cox Bay centre in 2016 and received approval from Tofino’s accommodation providers to increase Tofino’s additional hotel room tax—now called the Municipal, Regional, District Tax—from 2 per cent to 3 per cent to pay for a replacement.

“One that would inspire our guests to do more, to stay longer, to return, and one that would reflect our whole community,” Richards said. “We now have this beautiful visitor centre, but it would not have been a reality without some spectacular efforts by standout volunteers and staff to get the approvals required to make this building a reality.”

READ MORE: Tourism Tofino aims for new visitor centre

He thanked Tourism Tofino’s former executive director Kirsten Soder for starting the process and current executive director Nancy Cameron for “pushing the proverbial ball up the mountain.”

He added Tourism Tofino’s past chairs JJ Belanger and Charles McDiarmid played key roles in convincing local accommodation providers to agree to the tax increase.

“These two men worked tirelessly to reach agreements with the District of Tofino, the Chamber of Commerce, the Ministry of Finance and Destination BC. They also played an integral role in lobbying tax collecting properties to increase the MRDT from 2 per cent to 3 per cent,” he said.

He said the building is now complete, save for some additional landscaping yet to be done as well as artwork en route, including three hand-painted surfboards—one by local artist Mark Hobson.

He pointed to a large hand-carved dugout canoe hanging from the ceiling that was created by Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation councillor Joe Martin.

“We look forward to a lifetime of guests enquiring about its origins and learning more about your history in the area,” he said to Martin.

Martin had opened the ceremony by welcoming the audience to Tla-o-qui-aht territory with a wolf chant to symbolize communities working together “because wolves look after each other in packs.”

“That’s a canoe that’s really hard to improve upon. The design that people had here and evolved for thousands of years for the many different moods of the Pacific Ocean,” Martin said adding he was happy to see strong collaboration create the “beautiful” building.

“We can learn from each other and I’m very happy today because we’re moving forward on a very good note,” he said.

READ MORE: VIDEO: Tla-o-qui-aht totem pole raised in Tofino

Richards said Tourism Tofino plans to work with Tla-o-qui-aht to further infuse the Nation’s language and heritage into the space

“It has been truly phenomenal to see these doors open and we are very proud of our visitor service team greeting people and servicing our guests. We are very proud to present this building to you today and to the community of Tofino,” he said.

Destination BC CEO Marsha Walden traveled from Vancouver to attend the grand opening event and said she was stunned to see the completed building for the first time, calling it “an iconic West Coast building…situated in what is truly an iconic Canadian setting, one of the best places in Canada for visitors and for residents.”

READ MORE: VIDEO: Vancouver Island’s Long Beach named one of world’s best

She said visitor centres are vital to ensuring visitors are able to enjoy the full slate of experiences a town has to offer.

“They’re so instrumental is making sure that B.C. maintains its rank as one of the top destinations in the world,” she said.

“For those of you that work in visitor centres, both locally here and across our province, you truly are the ones that make a lasting impression on our guests. With the tens of thousands of visitors that I know are going to enter these doors over these next few months in particular, the amount of inputs that you have on the guest experience is really immense and I hope you appreciate and recognize the differences you’re making everyday.”

She added effective visitor services leads to valuable stories being told by tourists back home.

“They make decisions to stay longer, to see and do more and ultimately to spend more money in your community,” she said. “It’s that spirit of hospitality that the Tofino residents and community bring to the guest experience that ultimately ignites that oh so very powerful word of mouth in marketing.”

READ MORE: Tourism Tofino says town’s visitation generates $240 million annually

Coun. Britt Chalmers congratulated Tourism Tofino on behalf of the town’s municipal council.

“You’ve created a facility this town can be proud of and is a great place to welcome visitors,” she said. “This is such a benefit for our community. It’s an example of how the tourism industry not only can but currently is supporting the infrastructure needs created by tourists.”

Tourism Tofino’s executive director Nancy Cameron said the new centre will help inspire guests to “see and do more” while visiting the area.

“This results in our guests spending more with our local businesses and, in turn, having more memorable and deeper experiences and those experiences are those that they will recommend to others,” she said.

She said a touch-screen interpretive program will be installed “that will speak to the history, the geography, the culture, the wildlife, and the ecosystems,” in an effort to turn tourists into better stewards of the environment.

“We’ll also take on a greater role in educating our guests about how to interact within this environmentally sensitive place and encourage them to take care of it by participating in some fun activities like beach cleanups,” she said.

READ MORE: Surfrider cheers ocean friendly businesses in Tofino and Ucluelet

She added the Tofino branded merchandise on offer at the centre is designed to lead to lifestyle changes with reusable items like bamboo utensils and toothbrushes, glass straws and microfiber-free clothing.

Though the centre is now complete, Tofino’s Municipal, Regional, District Tax will remain at 3 per cent at least until Tourism Tofino submits a new five year financial plan in 2022, according to Cameron.

READ MORE: Tourism Tofino splits from Chamber

READ MORE: Tourism Tofino hopes to strengthen relationship with council

READ MORE: Ucluelet irked as Tofino spurns Pacific Rim Visitors Centre



andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tourists are being asked to postpone their non-essential trips to Tofino as COVID-19 cases rise across Vancouver Island, but at least one accommodation provider is offering conflicting messaging. (Westerly file photo)
Victoria woman says Tofino Airbnb host encouraged travel despite provincial restrictions

“The only way I would get a refund is if she would be able to rebook the suite for that weekend.”

A sign outside Ucluelet’s Blue Room on Monday morning advises patrons that the restaurant has gone back to take-out only. (Andrew Bailey photo)
Some Ucluelet restaurants heading back to take-out only as COVID-19 concerns rise

Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel urges residents to be respectul of business owners’ decisions.

A sign at the entrance to Ty-Histanis asks visitors to stay out of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Andrew Bailey photo)
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation announces lockdown after member tests positive for COVID-19

Essential travel only and restricted to Tofino and Ucluelet.

Tofino Sea Kayaking staff Sable Trafton holds a gift card they are contributing ‘12 Days of Jingle’ draw. One lucky local will has the chance to win $500 worth of gift cards to local merchants. (TLCC photo)
Tofino’s 12 Days of Jingle kicks off holiday season

“We wanted to do it early so people could make purchases and send them wherever they need to go.”

FILE – British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wears a face mask as she views the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Masks now mandatory in all public indoor and retail spaces in B.C.

Many retailers and businesses had voiced their frustration with a lack of mask mandate before

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

(Pixabay.com)
Man, 28, warned by Kootenay police to stop asking people to marry him

A woman initially reported the incident to police before they discovered others had been popped the question

Winston Blackmore (left) and James Oler (right) were sentenced on separate charges of polygamy this week in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
No more charges expected in Bountiful investigation, special prosecutor says

Special prosecutor says mandate has ended following review of evidence from Bountiful investigations

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Parksville’s French Creek Harbour experienced a diesel spill on Nov. 23 after a barge and fishing vessel collided. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Coast Guard cleans up diesel spill in Parksville’s French Creek Harbour

Barge carrying fuel truck collides with fishing vessel

Stock photo
Senior from Gibsons caught viewing child porn sentenced to 10 months

74-year-old pleaded guilty after police seized 1,500-2,500 images

BC Teachers' Federation President Teri Mooring is asking parents of school-aged children to encourage the wearing of masks when possible in schools. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
LETTER: Teachers union encourages culture of mask wearing in B.C. schools

BCTF President Teri Mooring asks parents to talk with children about wearing masks in school

Most Read