The Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce operates the visitor information centre on Hall Street.

The Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce operates the visitor information centre on Hall Street.

Nelson Chamber takes hit on visitor centre

The Nelson Visitor Centre won’t ask for more city funding despite a persistent operating deficit.

The Nelson Visitor Centre won’t ask for more city funding despite a persistent operating deficit.

The City pays $76,000 annually to have the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce run the visitor centre under a fee-for-service contract. That’s about $21,000 less than what it actually cost to run the centre in 2012.

Similar deficits have been recorded for the past six years, since the city reduced visitor centre funding by $12,000 in 2007, leaving the Chamber to cover operating shortfalls.

Chamber executive director Tom Thomson explained that as an organization that advocates on behalf of business, the chamber doesn’t want to see municipal taxes increased. Asking for more money from the city to cover the full cost of operating the visitor centre could result in raising taxes.

So instead the visitor centre looks for cost savings measures and new revenue sources.

Thomson said that when the Chamber moves into the old CP Rail building, the Nelson Visitor Centre will become part of a larger regional visitor gateway, and the Chamber will be able to request funding from the Regional District of Central Kootenay areas, which currently don’t provide any direct funding to the local visitor centre.

“We’ll be focusing on more than just Nelson in the new building — we’ll have tourism resources for Kaslo, Slocan, New Denver and that whole corridor,” Thomson said, noting the Chamber expects to move into the new space in the next two or three years.

In the meantime, the Chamber will continue to subsidize operation costs for the visitor centre on Hall Street.

“It benefits local business to have the visitor centre open — we’re sending people to their businesses to spend money,” Thomson said.

Nelson Visitor Centre served about 17,000 walk-in visitors in 2012. It’s open five days per week year round, with additional weekend hours added during the summer months.