And that’s a wrap for AdvantageHOPE and 2018: the economic development and tourism organization hosted its Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Friday, with the mayor, members of council, local stakeholders, and interested members of the public in attendance.
“I think it went great,” said Shannon Jones, executive director for AdvantageHOPE. “We had lots of great things to present (and I received) lots of positive feedback. Everyone was excited to see things going up around town.”
In the rec centre’s conference room, dozens gathered and not only heard how the last year went while enjoying dessert squares and coffee, but were given glimpses of the future with presentations by Allison Colthorp of Tourism Chilliwack, and Riley Forman of Connect Media.
With a nearly tangible passion for tourism, Colthorp presented on the accomplishments of Tourism Chilliwack, not to show-off, but to inspire and show the potential of AdvantageHOPE to create a strong tourism industry in Hope with the assistance of the Municipal Regional District Tax (MRDT) funds, which is administered through DestinationBC.
“Why work in silos when we can be working under (the) umbrella (of DestinationBC),” Colthorp asked rhetorically. By working together and promoting the Fraser Valley in partnership, as well as promoting one’s own individual community, it “creates a culture of sharing experiences and allows communities who are diverse to come together. We’re not looking to reinvent the wheel, just enhance it.”
From there, Forman took over the podium and gave the audience a virtual tour of Hope.BC.ca, AdvantageHOPE’s new website to be launched in conjunction with the arrival of funds from the MRDT. The site’s purpose is to grab the attention of potential tourists and drive them to visit the area by illuminating the area’s natural resources and sharing stories that are engaging. There will also be a section for people looking for investment opportunities in Hope.
“I think those were both really great things to share,” said Jones.
Then it was Sarah Brown’s turn to step up to the podium and deliver some cold hard facts about the Tourism Centre’s previous year.
“We had 43,481 visitors … plus 5,305 at events,” said Brown, who’s the operations manager for the Tourism Centre, and curator of the museum. Of those who visited Hope’s Visitor Centre, Brown said the fourth most popular inquiry—3,075 in total—were about First Blood, with the most common question being ‘Where’s the bathroom?’
“While we’ve had some challenges this year,” Jones added, “having our Visitor Centre and museum operating out of a trailer, that was our number one struggle this (previous) year.”
But even with that, Brown said the Centre was still visited by 132 tour buses, and 6,654 European parties of visitors. “And from December first to 21, 9,000 visitors passed through on E-Bus, which started on October 31.”
After Brown, Stephanie Hooker presented a report culminating everything AdvantageHOPE accomplished through the Rural Dividend Fund (RDF). Provided by the Province, the RDF is a program designed to help communities with a population under 25,000 reinvigorate and diversify their local economies beyond natural resources.
AdvantageHOPE’s RDF application was accepted and over the course of two years, the organization received $499,948 through the Fund, which they leveraged with other organizations to raise another $275,299, allowing them to spend $775,247 on bringing the goals within the Imagine 2040: Hope Integrated Official Community Plan to fruition.
“It allowed our town to get a face-lift,” Hooker said. “We got new signage, trails, garbage cans, and even doggy-doo bags.”
Going forward, Jones said the organization “wants to continue on with the projects created with the Rural Dividend Fund. We’re very proud of the work we’ve done through that.
“We want to focus on relationship building with stakeholders, locals, and development partners, and informing the community in what we’re involved in. I think we’ve addressed the questions (people may have had about what we are doing), and closed the gap on educating the council and community on what we’re trying to achieve.
“We really appreciate the mayor and council that’s in place right now, they’ve been very supportive and always willing to sit down and problem solve. I appreciate the time they have put in with our organization to help see it made successful.”
And as AdvantageHOPE is starting its 2019 year fresh, this is the perfect time for anyone interested to step forward and volunteer for the Board of Directors. “We are actively seeking new members for AdvantageHOPE’s board, people (like us) with a passion for Hope, a vision for our community’s future, and a little time to share,” wrote the current board in the AGM’s agenda.
Those interested can submit their resumés to Mark Glentworth at the Hope Visitor Centre (919 Water Ave.) or emailed to email@example.com.
For more information about AdvantageHOPE, please visit their website at HopeBC.ca/about/.