With 46 new members on board, the Trail and District Chamber of Commerce is one of the fastest growing chambers in the province.
Besides so many local businesses joining this year, the chamber is reaching another impressive milestone next week – on Monday, the organization celebrates its 116th birthday.
Members are invited for refreshments and a piece of cake on Dec. 12 at “A Holiday Networking Event” from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the chamber office on Bay Avenue.
In the two years since Audry Durham was hired as executive director, the organization has turned a corner in terms of reaching out to newcomers and leading them into the visitors centre – an historic challenge given the office’s tucked away locale.
“When I first came on board about 2,700 had visited the area,” she said. “Rossland had 4,000 visitors that year and I thought, ‘Gosh, we can have 4,000 too.’ So our numbers are up and I am happy to say that in November, we reached the 4,000-visitor mark.”
Durham stopped by Trail council on Nov. 28, and outlined the chamber’s third quarter report, which included VIC (Visitor Information Centre) statistics, visitor satisfaction measures and referrals to local business.
After all, the purpose of the “VIC” is to cast out a net and catch as many visitors as possible.
The number of guests to the Trail site was up over 40 per cent this summer, due in part to the Alberta economy and high U.S. dollar, Durham speculated.
“Groups visiting from the United States nearly doubled over the past summer months,” she explained. “We welcomed 59 American parties in 2016 compared to 30 in the same time period the previous year. In summary, our international visits (not including the U.S.) stayed pretty constant over the summer with 37 groups coming through the centre,” Durham added.
“We’ve had slightly more local visitors than tourists. Most tourist visitors came from other parts of B.C., with Albertans and the rest of Canada following – we’ve had almost an equal amount of locals versus visitors from other parts of B.C.”
When tourists arrived at the chamber door step in past years, often they were frustrated. The location can be difficult to find, and local businesses have admitted it can be difficult to map out directions.
This dilemna improved this summer with the addition of “i” sandwich boards (“i” delineates tourism centres throughout the province) and “Info on the Go” tents manned by summer students in various locales including the Gulch and Esplanade markets.
Trail chamber “i” boards
So this summer, out-of-towners definitely had an easier time finding the chamber.
“Our visitor satisfaction measures are taken directly from the 88 comments in our guest book that were written during July, August, and September,” she said. “26 visitors commented on the helpful friendly staff, and the great service they received.”
Next were 10 comments from people looking for hiking and biking trails, 10 visitors commented how much they enjoyed the area, the new pedestrian bridge and the lights on the bridge, Durham added.
“Visitors also asked for souvenirs, fishing licences and history,” she concluded. “We are happy to report, since the addition of our VIC boards and additional signage, only 19 visitors from July through September reported having a difficult time locating us.”
The Trail and District Chamber welcomed 46 new members in 2016
Board president Doug Jones accompanied Durham to the governance meeting, and reviewed all the work that’s been underway – most of it tedious, but necessary.
“We pretty much fixed all the internal operations (such as) the job description policy manuals for the board, policy manuals for staff, and new evaluations,” Jones explained. “The financial situation was not great, but we are just about through that now – we’ve developed a member retention strategy and open door policy – all those things have made the chamber, I think, a much better experience for people and businesses.”
Additionally the board is undertaking the chamber’s accreditation.
“This will ensure that all documentation goes to the BC Chamber of Commerce,” he said. “What’s happened in the past, as an example, in Edmonton they had a flood and lost everything (files). Because we are a member of the BC Chamber, our information (will) be all there. Part of the <