Tourism issues aired at council meeting

The presidents of the Lillooet & District Historical Society and Tourism Lillooet both say they want to find ways to work together to promote tourism in the community.

Vera Busse and Stefan Zeidler made those comments at District of Lillooet Council’s Jan 21 meeting.

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“I am not against Tourism Lillooet,” Mrs. Busse told council. “I am 100 per cent behind it; I want us to work together, but I was very upset when I saw they wanted to take the tourism money that the museum is relying on to keep open. Hopefully, that was a mistake and hopefully it’s not going to happen and hopefully we can get along and make this thing work because we need it.”

Zeidler told council Tourism Lillooet would work with “existing tourism operators to come to an understanding.”

In a Jan. 14 letter to council, Zeidler wrote, “At this point, we have approached the primary existing tourist organization – the Lillooet & District Historical Society – hoping to engage in talks that will lead to a better understanding of our respective roles in Lillooet’s tourist economy. We are excited to meet with them in the near future and incorporate their feedback into our strategic planning, which we hope to complete in the first quarter of this year.”

“This council supports tourism in all forms and fashion,” commented Mayor Peter Busse. “We hope these societies will work together to resolve these issues.”

The 58-year-old Historical Society operates the Visitor Centre and Museum; Tourism Lillooet, which operates under the umbrella of the Chamber of Commerce, is a new destination marketing organization in the community.

Recently, there has been tension between the two groups.

At council’s Dec. 3 meeting, Chamber of Commerce Director of Tourism Angela Bissat made a presentation on Tourism Lillooet and asked council to pass two resolutions:

1)    that starting in 2019, District Council recognize Tourism Lillooet as the primary tourism marketing, management and development organization for the Lillooet region, and

2)    that District Council appoint a council member to the Tourism Lillooet Board of Directors in a non-voting capacity.

The report presented by Bissat also suggested that, as Tourism Lillooet develops, the Visitor Centre “report to and funds are managed through” Tourism Lillooet. Bissat told council there had been no discussions with the Historical Society regarding that proposal.

In response, Vera Busse sent a letter to council, with copies to Tourism Lillooet, the SLRD and the Lillooet News, saying the Historical Society was “shocked and concerned” by Tourism Lillooet’s “premature” recommendation.

At council’s Jan. 21 meeting, CAO Michael Roy reported that when he met with Zeidler Jan. 16, Zeidler indicated Tourism Lillooet is still in the formative stages and has contracted a consultant to assist it in establishing its strategic priorities.

Roy also reported that Tourism Lillooet has withdrawn its request to be recognized as the primary tourism marketing, management and development organization for the Lillooet area.

At the Jan. 21 meeting, Councillor Jamie Howe was appointed as the District’s representative on Tourism Lillooet.

Earlier in the Jan. 21 meeting, council received a letter from Susan Bell of the Lillooet Museum and Visitor Centre requesting an increase in District of Lillooet funding support for the Museum and Visitor Centre. Council was asked to increase the funding by 20 per cent  from $22,000 per year to $26,400. Bell’s letter was referred to a budget meeting.

On Jan. 21, Vera Busse emphasized the importance of the funding the Historical Society receives for the Visitor Center to help keep Museum open. She also noted that Tourism Lillooet has received  $100,000 in grant funding from the province’s Rural Dividend Fund, with additional funds from the District of Lillooet and in-kind donations from TRU.

At the same meeting, council passed a resolution consenting to registration of the name “Tourism Lillooet Association.” Local government permission was required before the organization could register the name with B.C. Registry Services.

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