Event costs placing strain on chamber

There is growing frustration at the chamber of commerce over having to shoulder the financial burden for hosting local events.

There is growing frustration at the chamber of commerce over having to shoulder the financial burden for hosting local events.

“We need some sort of structure or formula that gets the entire community involved,” said Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce past-president Cary Schneiderat.

“It shouldn’t be borne on the shoulders of our 685 members to foot the bill. It should be community-wide, it should be accommodators, the restaurants, downtown retailers and other retailers around the community. I think a different funding model should be developed and it shouldn’t be the chamber’s bank, because we can’t.”

The comments came at the chamber meeting on Wednesday following discussion of a motion made by Penticton Coun. John Vassilaki during recent city budget talks to reduce the tourism budget by 10 per cent.

“All of these groups that come into town want seed money. That leadership should be taken up by the chamber, tourist development and sports tourism. They are responsible to raise the funds in order for those festivals to come and participate in Penticton. The city should be the last resort for those groups to get seed money. We should be the last resort, not the first,” Vassilaki told Western News. “The chamber is the business leader in the community and they should be handling all this, not city council or payment from the taxpayers of Penticton. The wrong people are paying for those (events).”

The chamber manages the tourism operations on contract for the city. Last year the chamber board scrambled to find money with the help of the Tourism Advisory Committee to help pay for some of the $30,000 marketing fee as a result of an agreement the city made with Ironman organizers. This year they will be looking for community support to the tune of $45,000 to help with the marketing fee, although the agreement with Ironman has the city on the hook for the money. Financial support will also have to be found for hosting the GranFondo in July, and possibly if a bid to host the B.C. Senior Games in 2013 is approved by the city.

While Vassilaki agrees there should be a better model of raising funds, rather than turning to the chamber membership, he still believes it is up to them to figure that out.

“City council does not benefit from these events. The city overall is going to benefit to a degree, I agree with that, but the majority of the people going to benefit from it are the business people. The membership shouldn’t be the only ones on the hook. I bet three-quarters of the businesses in Penticton don’t belong to the chamber and they should be going to those businesses as well, not just their own members,” said Vassilaki.

The motion to decrease the budget was tabled until Feb. 14, when the chamber is scheduled to meet with council to “remind” them of the important work they do for tourism.

“Hopefully this board can talk to as many people as they know to try and remind the city of the valuable investment they are making in providing the fees to us to provide a service,” said Schneiderat. “This isn’t a grant, it’s not money that goes into somewhere and disappears. The city gets their return on investment many times fold. We have shown them that we leverage their dollars 4.3 to one compared to other organizations that do these services.

“I know a couple of councillors have this perception that the chamber is once again the go-to people to fund these events and we simply don’t have the money to do it on a regular basis.”

Chamber director Judy Poole said she has a vision for the Iron Club, the group who went to the community to raise funds for the Ironman marketing fee, that all businesses would purchase a sponsorship package, and in the future there would be enough money in the pool to help pay for all kinds of events coming to Penticton.