Chamber pitches tourist bureau fix

Jennifer Hoegg
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The Eastern Kings Chamber of Commerce has proposed moving its office from New Minas into the former train station in downtown Kentville.

By Jennifer Hoegg

There could be another location change for Kentville’s visitor information centre.

In 2010, the town left its Park Street location for a downtown spot shared with the county and Destination South West Nova Association. The experiment came to an end last fall.

Eastern Kings Chamber of Commerce president Andy Woolaver proposed a new plan to the town’s council advisory committee Jan. 9. The chamber would like to relocate its New Minas office to the former train station in downtown Kentville and provide tourist bureau services to the town.

He pitched the idea as a win-win for Kentville, because it would fill the vacant space previously rented by Kings Transit, with an attractive welcome centre with full-time, informed staff. It would also bring the office of growing chamber into the downtown.

Woolaver said the chamber would provide furnishings, technology and staff to run the centre year-round.

What does the chamber want in return? Free rent, leasehold improvements, repairs, maintenance, utilities, taxes and insurance, parking spots and the current Kings Transit bus stop moved.

Insight on the plan came from the chambers tourism committee, he said. 

The proposal is for a regional VIC in Kentville, like the Cornwallis and Main Street location was, and Woolaver will be asking the county for a contribution. 

“We want the County of Kings to pitch in $14,500, which is what they put in in 2010, to help fund additional staff hours to ensure centre is operational at appropriate times,” he said.

The financial goal is to break even, he clarified, and the operational one is to be open this May.

Deputy Mayor Mark Pearl pointed to statistics showing visits to tourist bureaus have declined.

“We have toyed with the idea is there a better idea to get our message out.”

“There will be a certain segment of the population who will always want tourist bureaus,” Woolaver said, but added the “bricks and mortar” bureaus may not last forever. 

Pearl also said the former train station has been a source of revenue for the town, so a rent-free use would have to be considered carefully.

The project was referred to staff for study and will be discussed at the Feb. 13 council advisory committee meeting.

Organizations: Destination South West Nova Association, Eastern Kings Chamber of Commerce, Cornwallis

Geographic location: Kentville, Park Street, New Minas Kings

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