Chamber contracts caught in budget crunch

Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce has its work cut out to accomplish goals within their budget on the three tourism contracts they hold with the city.

Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce has its work cut out to accomplish goals within their budget on the three tourism contracts they hold with the city.

Last month Coun. John Vassilaki made a motion at a city budget meeting to cut the chamber fee-for-service by 10 per cent. The chamber currently holds contracts to run the tourism centre, visitor information centre, tourism development services and the economic development services. After two public meetings and one in camera, an agreement was reached that the chamber will receive the same amount it did last year to run those operations, which is $189,980 for tourism services, $196,435 for economic development and $133,000 for the information centre.

Chamber president Jason Cox said they were asking for an additional $50,000 for sport tourism and $20,000 to develop a meetings and conventions funding model. Both were denied by the city.

“Not only denied but they expressly said we should find a way to fund it within the existing budget. Vassilaki said specifically … ‘if you are not going to back off that I’m going back to my 10 per cent decrease,’” said Cox. “So we are looking at budget priorities and where to refocus some of Tourism Penticton’s efforts to make priorities of sport tourism and a meeting and conventions funding model. We will have a report coming forward to us shortly about what that proposal is to restructure the funds.”

Cox said a volunteer group called Team Penticton is working on the funding model to help pay for cash and in-kind requests from conventions and large events that want to come to Penticton.

“The city needs to come up with a funding model that includes the citizens, the restaurants, the hotels and the retailers. There needs to be some sort of formula that creates a bankroll that will encourage events to come here if they require some sort of in-kind or cash donation,” said Cox.

The additional $50,000 was to be used to extend the contract of Jeff Plant, Penticton’s sport tourism co-ordinator. Cox said Plant’s contract is over in June and tourism development is reorganizing priorities within the existing budget to make sure as much work as possible gets done on the sport tourism initiative by then. Once the contract is up, if there is not room in the budget to renew, Cox said it will be up to volunteers to carry on sport tourism development which was something the city set out as a priority last year for the chamber.

“Each of the tourism services divisions has a volunteer advisory committee. I think there is enough goodwill in the community to make these things happen, it just might not happen on the same schedule as if you were paying a professional to stand in there and do the job,” said Cox.

This is the final year of a five-year contract that the chamber has with the city to conduct the tourism services. It is expected they will head to the negotiating table in October. Coun. Mike Pearce, the city’s liaison with the chamber said it is a matter of the city trying to bring the budget in line.

“We are caught in a budget crunch and nobody got money. We would like to bring a negative budget. I suggested one of -0.5 and I am going to get there,” said Pearce.