AdvantageHOPE reviews past performance while charting future

The future shines bright for the town, according to its executive director and board chair.

AdvanageHOPE's logo.

AdvantageHOPE’s executive director Tammy Shields and board chair Kent McKinnon presented as a delegation at the July 25 council meeting.

They stated their purpose was to summarize the highlights of their work in 2015 and 2016.

“The big question I get a lot is, ‘We know the input, we know what the town gives to AdvantageHOPE. What’s the payback?’ ” said McKinnon.

He said the District of Hope puts in $250,000, which AdvantageHOPE supplemented with $245,432 gained from other sources.

In 2015, they received $149,500 in matching grant funding. They also brought in about $22,966 from sales at the Visitor Centre, advertising revenues of $42,000, and $2,943 in donations at the museum. “Partner contributions” made up $28,000.

In their annual report, they added that AdvantageHOPE brought in 98 cents for every dollar the District contributes, as compared to 47 cents in 2014.

“We think of the ripple effect that money creates,” said McKinnon, adding that AdvantageHOPE hires seven staff, and hires local contractors for digital media, sales and revenue collection.

McKinnon noted that the Visitor Centre also can build inroads for visitors to become community members.

“If you think of our unique position with the amount of traffic that you get through the highways. If we can work through visitor operations — if somebody is out for a weekend or a day — we have the opportunity to engage them,” said McKinnon. “We’re confident that we can turn some of those tourists, maybe, into residents or business owners looking to set up shop here.”

McKinnon also said their marketing efforts get 4 million impressions, through means such as hopebc.ca and banner advertisements on Vancouver buses.

“What Destination BC tells us is an average overnight stay is worth $144,” said McKinnon. “So, if we can get 1 per cent of those people to get in a car and come on out, that’s about $5.5 million a year in money spent.”

McKinnon said he has no numbers to state what level of engagement they are seeing.

“One of the hardest things in this business is to actually say: what brought you here?” said McKinnon, adding that people might not reply seriously.

In a post-council interview, Shields said AdvantageHOPE will pursue trails development, updating the economic profile information, and a hotel tax going forward.

They are currently working on developing a master plan for trails with regional partners including First Nations.

Shields also said AdvantageHOPE is looking to update their own economic profile information. The economic profile information informs people about Hope such as its investment opportunities and demographics.

But they are also working with the Province and the British Columbia Economic Development Association.

“There’s a fairly new website called britishcolumbia.ca, and that identifies investment opportunities throughout the province and it provides profiles of all the communities. We provided all the data for that,” said Shields.

AdvantageHOPE also wants to implement a hotel tax around the area, which Shields said would create a sustainable source of revenue for tourism marketing.

In British Columbia, legislation allows municipalities to collect up to three per cent.

“We are also going to be working on forming an official destination marketing organization,” said Shields. “There are several municipalities in B.C. that already collect the tax, and that money is specifically earmarked for destination or tourism marketing initiatives.”

Before revamped legislation last year, hotel taxes could only be up to two per cent. Now, municipalities can collect three per cent, of which 0.2 percentage points will go towards a provincial fund to promote tourism.

“We’re hoping to implement it in the Hope region, not just in Hope, but the Hope, Cascades and Canyons region,” said Shields. “But we aren’t sure yet if we’re going to be able to do it for the whole region or if we’re going to try to do it just for Hope.”