A Game Changing Approach to Tourism Marketing in the Columbia Valley

Stunning scenery, unique outdoor adventures and friendly smiles abound in the Columbia Valley, making tourism a major economic generator for the communities of Radium Hot Springs, Panorama, Invermere, Windemere and Fairmont Hot Springs and area.

For many years, tourism marketing in the Valley was done by independent organizations and private tourism businesses. Faced with an increasingly competitive environment, diverse tourism stakeholders saw the potential to attract more visitors to the region for longer stays in all seasons.

Establishing a Destination Management Organization (DMO) created a way to bring hotels, restaurants, retailers, and attraction operators together to market a region with a broader scope. DMOs also administer the Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT), which creates revenues for local tourism marketing, programs, and events.

With the support of the Valley’s diverse tourism stakeholders, the Columbia Valley Tourism Marketing Society (CVTMS) applied in 2021 to begin collecting Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT) in Fairmont Hot Springs and Windermere, the only two areas in the Valley that were not collecting the tax.

“That application was a big step towards moving the valley-wide strategy forward after nearly a decade of work,” says Jessica Fairhart, Executive Director of Tourism Radium.

The Economic Trust of the Southern Interior (ETSI-BC) supported the area’s tourism strategy in its final stages through its Building Economic Capacity funding stream. The funding enabled the hiring of destination marketing specialist Suzanne Denback to develop a one-year marketing plan, create a suitable governance structure, a new five-year strategic plan, and operating agreements for the Valley’s three DMOs: CTVMS, Tourism Radium, and Invermere-Panorama.

The valley-wide marketing project is complemented by the Columbia Valley Events, Growth, & Preparedness Strategy which was also previously funded by ETSI-BC. That project was initiated to build on the success of current events, identify opportunities to attract new events, and attract more visitors in the off seasons.

Consolidation of Chambers of Commerce

As an official DMO, Tourism Radium stepped away from its previous role as a Chamber of Commerce to focus on tourism. The Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce in Invermere now serves as the Chamber of Commerce for the entire region.

“This shift has provided a more streamlined and comprehensive approach to both destination marketing and economic development,” says Fairhart. “The efficiencies created and MRDT revenue are providing new growth opportunities for accommodation providers, retailers and food and beverage businesses as well as the non-tourism businesses that support them.”

The Travel Columbia Valley website, launched in 2023, was the first step towards elevating the Tourism Columbia Valley brand by marketing the entire valley as the prime choice for year-round tourism experiences. Stakeholder organizations also collaborated on an innovative social media program.

As the area’s profile increases, new businesses are also starting up such as Radium Brewing, a unique craft brewery built to net-zero standards located at the headwaters of the Columbia River.

“Since we opened in 2021, we’ve grown beyond our expectations,” says brewery co-founder Jacob Houton. “The marketing and exposure the community has had through Tourism Radium has been an important driver of new business.”

Incremental activities will take place across the Valley as resident and visitor spending increases and Tourism Radium’s capacity as a DMO continues to grow. The MRDT is expected to inject approximately $300,000 into the local economy.

“Regional collaboration is the cornerstone of many economic development projects, especially in smaller, rural communities,” says Laurel Douglas, CEO of ETSI-BC. “The Columbia Valley has created a legacy of collaborative tourism marketing that will support a vibrant economy for years to come.”

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