Local stakeholders are hoping separation leads to success in Tofino.
Tourism Tofino and the Tofino Long Beach Chamber of Commerce officially divorced on July 25 meaning Tourism Tofino is now an independent body rather than an arm of the chamber.
The organizations proved breaking up isn’t so hard to do as their membership supported the split with a decisive 28-1 vote on July 25.
The chair of Tourism Tofino’s board J.J. Belanger told the Westerly that both organizations took their time reaching out to their membership and formed a joint-task force to ensure everyone understood the ramifications of the move.
“It was an uphill battle. We had a lot of people that had a lot of questions but we were able to answer those questions and move forward in a very positive way,” he said.
“Those people that were on the task force sang from the same song sheet and it did a lot of good and we were able to convince some people who were definitely on the fence to understand the reasons behind it and why we needed to do this to move forward and it was very successful and it remains a very amicable relationship.”
He said with the vote now in the past, both organizations can focus on the future.
“It will allow us to be more laser focused on what we do at Tourism Tofino as well as at the chamber,” he said. “A lot of our time in the past year has been tied up with talking about this and now that this is behind us we can both move forward. We can achieve our goals together as a united front for not only tourism but business in Tofino.”
He assured both organizations will continue working closely together.
“We need to support them in everything that they do and we know that they’re very supportive of us and the direction were going,” he said. “This was probably the best thing that could have happened to both organizations and we will, together, remain strong moving forward so that is exciting.”
The separation brings Tourism Tofino one step closer towards obtaining a new visitor centre for Cox Bay as Belanger explained it could not own any assets as an arm of the chamber. He said a new centre is needed.
“The one right now is not doing what it needs to do to service our guests that come to the community,” he said.
To pay for a new visitors centre, Tourism Tofino is proposing increasing Tofino’s additional hotel room tax—now known at the Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT)—from 2 per cent to 3 per cent.
The MRDT is collected by Tofino’s fixed room accommodation providers and charged to anyone who purchases short term accommodations in Tofino. Belanger suggested that, at the end of the next five-year term, the plan is to have the new visitors centre paid off and the tax brought back down to 2 per cent. In order to increase the tax, Tourism Tofino needed signed support from a majority of the town’s fixed roof accommodation providers and had secured 70 per cent by last Thursday, according to Belanger.
He added splitting up from the chamber will allow Tourism Tofino to access additional funding opportunities.
“The organization will be more able to secure non-MRDT fund granting for the future and also tax credits that we currently cannot do as a division of the chamber,” he said. “Overall it’s going to be better for the membership and it’s going to be better for the visitors.”
Membership to the chamber remains mandatory for anyone wishing to participate in Tourism Tofino’s promotional activities and there will continue to be one membership fee to be part of both organizations, according to the chamber’s executive director Jen Dart.
Dart told the Westerly News in an email that the busy summer season was not an ideal time to hold the vote but it could not wait for the fall because Tourism Tofino must submit their next five-year business plan to the provincial government by Sept. 1.
She said the chamber worked with Tourism Tofino internally during the months leading up to the vote to ensure any potential breakup up would not result in any decrease in service.
“We were mainly concerned with maintaining services for our members and we came to an agreement that guarantees the same level of service and representation for our members from Tourism Tofino,” she said.
“We are confident that Tourism Tofino can now move forward as its own entity to accomplish its goals of rebuilding the Cox Bay Visitor’s Centre, owning assets such as Chestervan, and continuing to represent Tofino to the world.”
Chestervan is a 1966 Volkswagen Microbus Deluxe that serves as Tourism Tofino’s mobile visitor centre.