Abigail and Ceri from Tourism Richmond’s Destination and Industry Development team joined other BC Visitor Centres at the first in-person Visitor Services (VS) Conference hosted by Destination BC (DBC), since 2019. The conference took place over two days in Vancouver and provided the opportunity for visitor centers to listen and learn from various tourism professionals, including Walt Judas from the Tourism Industry Association of BC (TIABC), and Willie Lewis from Indigenous Tourism BC (ITBC), and discuss important topics affecting the visitor servicing industry within BC.   

Conference Day 1

On day one, conference attendees had the pleasure of being greeted with a traditional Indigenous Welcome, performed by Willie Lewis, who is also a member of the Squamish First Nations and a cultural performer. 

Willie Lewis from ITBC performing at the 2023 Visitor Services Conference

Jarrett Bachman, a Ph.D. Scholar, spoke about the value of conducting surveys and receiving insights from visitors and local residents about visitor servicing within a destination. He discussed the importance of surveying residents and understanding their perspectives and how they feel about tourism. Jarrett mentioned that tourism professionals are “great at telling stories about our destinations to prospective visitors, but not through [the lends of] a local.”

Ceri Chong from Tourism Richmond, along with guests from Salmon Arm and Penticton Visitor Centres, presented about how Visitor Centres have been servicing outside of a typical brick-and-mortar, with a focus on Ambassador Programming and industry engagement. Ceri highlighted the Front Line Ambassadors program and how Tourism Richmond engages with front-line staff through hotel check-ins, destination training webinars, and more.

Ceri Chong from Tourism Richmond presenting at the 2023 Visitor Services Conference

Conference Day 2

On the last day of the conference, attendees had the opportunity to participate in two think-tank sessions and share their opinions on a variety of tourism topics. Visitor Centres were split into groups based on which region they were located in.

The first think tank discussed the distribution of Visitor Information. Team Richmond gathered insights on the ongoing challenges and opportunities of distributing information through printed maps, publications, and digital platforms. The second think tank addressed key HR issues, and how various centres retain seasonal or permanent staff through incentives and funding grants.

TIABC CEO, Walt Judas, presented the Tourism Emergency Management Framework and emphasized the need for collaboration between BC visitor centres, and the government to protect the safety of both visitors and locals in face of an emergency.

2023 Visitor Servicing Conference | Photo Credit: Destination BC

The 2023 Visitor Servicing Conference was a wonderful opportunity to connect with other Visitor Centres and share innovative ideas to make Visitor Servicing more effective all over BC. Thank you to the Destination BC team for organizing the insightful conference!