Local businesses go live with Google support

Downtown Trail Business Group working together to attract tourists

The Trail tradition of pasta and meatballs has traveled far and wide by visitors who still get hungry thinking about the Colander and its popular special.

The endless platters of spaghetti and meatballs, chicken and jojos, crusty buns and salad is enough to bring someone back. But now there is a virtual tour available for those who’ve only ever heard of the experience. You just have to Google it.

The Google Business Photos and View Virtual Project saw to 57 businesses — the Colander included — and organizations in the Lower Columbia developing an online presence.

Virtual tours, still photography, a Google landing page, and a listing with Kootenay Rockies Tourism was included in the $44,000 project.

“This was the perfect way to kickstart a regional tourism project, as we can now use this info on other websites, as well as increase the visibility of our local businesses online,” explained Deanne Steven of Tourism Rossland.

Steven coordinated the project, which was paid for by Community Directed Funds (administered by the Lower Columbia Community Development Team Society) and Kootenay Rockies Tourism.

Views4Business sent Google certified photographers to the Kootenay-Rockies region this month to shoot footage of businesses with street-style and indoor 360-degree views. Virtual tours already live also include Birchbank Golf Course, Country Roads General Store, and Columbia Gardens Winery.

“When I want to go somewhere, I research the heck out of it, and I think a lot of people do,” said Steven.”This allows people to really get a sense of what they’re going to do before they go and also to lure them to our area. I think there is a lot that we can do to improve our online presence as a Greater Trail region.”

This is not the first time Steven has pushed for a larger online footprint. Two years ago, she secured funding to do the same with Rossland just shortly after she met Views4Business at a trade show.

“We (Rossland) became the most Google-photo toured community in the world per capita,” she said.

Now she’s expanding that scope with high hopes for the rest of the Lower Columbia – Warfield, Trail, Fruitvale and Montrose – because she believes working together will keep visitors in the region.

Daniel Haley, owner of Casa di Cioccolato in downtown Trail, is also keen on finding a collective voice.

He is leading a newly formed Downtown Trail Business Group and reaping the benefits of this successful marketing scheme.

“I personally think tourism is going to be part of any fundamental growth that this community will ever have,” he said. “A lot of people don’t realize how many people from outside the community come to Trail.”

The new downtown group encompasses businesses in the core, Gulch, and East Trail. The group is busy supporting events and making partnerships with city movers and shakers, all in the name of attracting people to Trail and expanding the business sector.

Some recent work includes helping the Trail and District Chamber of Commerce promote an indoor market in the former Liquidation World building and trying to get the Market Along the Esplanade moved to Saturday to attract professionals who work full time.

The team of business-minded people are also adding their energy to the Waneta Rotary Club’s Red Roofs Duathlon scheduled for Sept. 13, providing volunteer support but also offering up prizes to draw participants into downtown Trail.

While the group leads with a positive stride, Haley admits owning a business in a small town can be difficult.

Challenges he faces daily remain to be a lack of adequate parking for shoppers and creating a vibe that is enticing while often the city’s affordability attracts people who wind up panhandling on the street outside his business. He adds, getting people to shop locally in a city that doesn’t have a wide variety of retail choice can be tricky.

“The reality is business brings business, retail brings retail,” he said. “People that shop retail want to go from store to store and it’s up to us to supply the goods.”

That said, he said institutions like the Colander, Star Grocery, and Ferraro Foods give Trail its Italian heritage reputation that keeps tourists coming back. Haley is invested in this identity, too, with a shop on Bay Avenue that specializes in chocolate, olive oil, and tea.

His friendly, happy disposition keeps his doors open. Customers are encouraged to sample his goods, sign his guestbook and chat about what the city has to offer.

“When people go shopping, they want to have an experience,” said Haley. “They want to go away and feel like they’ve touched that community or the community has touched them.”

The downtown group’s efforts are only further amplified by the Google footage, said Steven, who is particularity amped about a Kootenay Rockies app that can easily be downloaded for free onto a cell phone. Visitors’ phones will notify travellers of what’s available in the section of the region they’re traveling through. The new Google details—a business address, description, photo and a virtual tour—will pop up, and chances are they’ll pull over and check out what the Lower Columbia has to offer.

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