A longstanding pillar of Tofino’s tourism scene is taking her talents to Campbell River.
Tourism Tofino announced on Friday that the destination marketing organization had accepted Kirsten Soder’s resignation and that her last day would be on June 30.
Soder, who has lived in Tofino for 12 years and began working for Tourism Tofino in 2010, has accepted a position with Destination Think!, which works with Destination Marketing Organizations around the world.
Destination Think! Recently received a contract to handle Campbell River’s destination marketing and tourism development and Soder will serve as the Executive Manager of Destination Marketing for Tourism Campbell River and Region.
“I’m going to miss this community and all the wonderful people that I met here very much…It’s absolutely a very emotional decision,” Soder told the Westerly News. “I started my family here. I got married here. This is the only home my kids have ever known…It was not an easy decision to make. At the same time, I really love this industry. I really love this Island and I see this as an incredible opportunity for me to take what I’ve known and really grow personally and professionally and give my family some opportunities that a larger centre affords.”
She said she’s been thrilled to watch Tofino grow as a destination and cited Tourism Tofino’s collaboration with local festival and event organizers as a key contributor to the destination’s success.
“It’s a matter of leveraging resources and streamlining effort,” she said.
She added the arrival of social media has brought Tourism Tofino new avenues to engage with prospective visitors and get Tofino’s message out.
“We’ve really tightened up all of our brand standards and identity guidelines and our brand promise so we’re setting up what that realistic expectation looks like for visitors and educating them on how and why Tofino is Tofino and what the lifestyle is here and what that means to somebody visiting here and how they can respect that and engage with that,” she said.
She assured she would not be helping to create competition for Tofino by upping Campbell River’s brand and said Vancouver Island does well when all its destinations shine.
“The beauty of tourism as an industry is there’s a very real sense of ‘co-opetition.’ As different destinations find new and innovative ways to position themselves in the marketplace, I think, it up-levels everybody’s learnings and everybody’s capabilities,” she said adding the market she’s heading to attracts different clientele than the one she’s leaving.
“One of the most intriguing and interesting challenges of this job to me is going to be how the product is such a different sell,” she said. “I’m absolutely not going to be targeting the same visitors to come to Campbell River that I would probably have targeted to come to Tofino.”
She said her and her family are excited to see Tofino from a tourist’s view.
“It’s always going to hold a giant chunk of our hearts and it’s always going to be an incredible place for us to come back and enjoy and visit all of the things that I knew were awesome about it when I was talking to visitors,” she said.
“It will be a very cool experience for us to be able to come back as a visitor and just enjoy it.”
She added she’s confident Tourism Tofino will continue to excel.
“This organization has been wonderful to me. I know they are poised to attract some really top talent so I’m so excited to watch my team thrive under new leadership because they are clever and brilliant and amazing and they are going to be such a huge asset to whoever the new person is that’s lucky enough to take the executive director job,” she said.
“We’ve got some really exciting projects coming down the pipe right now that a big part of me is going to be sad to not be a part of the delivery of, but I feel so confident in my team to deliver.”
Tourism Tofino has hired a consulting firm to help find Soder’s replacement and has brought Jen Houtby-Ferguson, who has provided consulting services to Tourism Tofino in the past, to oversee the DMO’s operations until a permanent replacement is found.
The chair of Tourism Tofino’s board of directors JJ Belanger was grateful for the positive impact Soder had during her tenure with the organization.
“She has built a remarkable team of talented and hardworking professionals who collectively have lead the organization to be recognized as a top Canadian destination marketing organization,” Belanger said.
“We all wish Kirsten every success in the future.”