A lot more out-of-towners are checking out the City of Trail compared to last summer.
In July alone, 640 people signed into the Visitor Centre, which is up 185 guests from 2015. And the city’s RV Park is running at 70 per cent capacity instead of 25 per cent like last year.
Those numbers are based on people who sign in at the Trail and District Chamber of Commerce (TCOC) and “Info on the Go” tents set up during local events such as the outdoor market.
Friendly faces getting the word out – it’s all part of the chamber’s strategy to draw people in and have them stay awhile, instead of passing through town, crossing the bridge and driving east to shop and dine.
“We have been working like crazy at the Visitor Centre this year to increase the number of visitors that we can catch to stop in Trail,” says Audry Durham, TCOC executive director, noting 640 visitors in July compared to 455 last year.
“We’ve gotten “i” sandwich boards on the highway, have gotten funds for an “Info on the Go” and have our trained students attending events and locating in the Gulch, Mall and Walmart,” she added. “The idea is always to welcome and encourage visitors to stop and spend a bit of money. We’ve developed new rack cards to let visitors know what we have to keep them here and it seems to be working.”
The chamber collects daily stats as part of its contract with Destination BC, and Durham says the overall count is definitely on the rise.
So far this year, 2,500 visitors have been to Trail compared to 2,700 for the whole of 2015. (Again, those are only guests who do stop into the Visitor Centre so likely there are more)
“When I took over the position a year ago, my goal was to welcome 4,000 by 2017,” Durham shared. “And it looks like we might just do it.”
Besides main attractions like hiking trails, the Columbia River and Teck tours, the question becomes,”What else are the tourists looking for in the Trail area? And how are local businesses faring?”
The Trail Times talked with several businesses located just off the main stretch of Victoria Street in downtown Trail. Their replies were a mixed bag, some days business is good, other days, not so good.
But there is one stop that does attract regular foot traffic – pretty much everyone likes to chance it on a lottery ticket – so Linda Grandbois’ insight about tourist requests, sums up the situation quite well.
“People do stop in and ask,”Where can I get a real breakfast? Where can I get a haircut? Where’s your Denny’s or White Spot? Where can I park my motor home?” said Grandbois, from the Trail Ticket Centre on Cedar Avenue. “They come from Vancouver, Kelowna, we even had a motor home from Texas not too long ago, they are so used to these services everyday of their lives they want to know where to find them in Trail.”
While she does her best with suggestions, Grandbois did say drop-in guests have one thing in common – they know there is a Visitor Centre but can’t find the place, and she has difficulty giving them directions.
“We want people to stop and spend a few bucks, not go over the bridge and keep driving east,” Grandbois said. “And I have to be careful giving directions so they don’t drive into the mountain or the river,” she joked. “But (in seriousness) their eyes glaze over by the time finish explaining where to find it.”
That insight rings true with chamber as well, which is why offsetting those frustrations with helpful and friendly staff is key in keeping those tourists coming back and bringing others with them the next time.
“We have a guest book and other than visitors having difficulty finding us, most are most happiest with our awesome staff who have been working extremely hard all summer,” Durham said. “This includes our Teck guides, who do an amazing job and we are always getting compliments on their knowledge, friendliness and professionalism.”
Visitor Centre staff have all taken six courses in WorldHost training plus the visitor information counselor training, she added. “I’m happy to report we will be one of a very few tourism businesses in the Kootenays to be part of the WorldHost Recognized Business Program, with 85 per cent of our staff having completed the intensive customer service training.”
The Trail numbers reflect what is happening across B.C. this summer, the ministry reports the tourism industry is enjoying record growth throughout the province.
Granted some of those tourists come from afar, by all accounts from the Trail businesses interviewed, most visitors are in</span