Collaboration was a major theme for the Chemainus and District Chamber of Commerce in 2012.
The idea of working together — inside and outside the town’s boundaries — was heard often during the Chamber’s annual general meeting March 19 at the Chemainus Seniors Drop-In Centre.
Throughout 2012, the Chamber of Commerce worked to increase its service to the community, increase membership and work more closely with other organizations both within the community and around Vancouver Island, Chamber president Peter Matthews explained in his report.
Matthews explained that Chemainus has been working with the other four Cowichan Valley Chambers — Ladysmith, Duncan-Cowichan, South Cowichan and Lake Cowichan — to see how they can work together to benefit their members and to develop a Five Chambers Accord. As well, they are looking forward to the completion of the new regional Visitor Centre at the Forest Discovery Centre in Duncan.
“We anticipate it will help drive people to Chemainus through displays we expect to be able to display there,” said Matthews.
A Five-Chamber mixer has been planned, and the Cowichan Valley Chambers have begun a process of offering discounted memberships to micro-businesses (with five employees or less) that are members of one or more of the Cowichan Chambers.
Together with the other Vancouver Island and Gulf Island Chambers, Chemainus is now partners in the Vancouver Island Accord, an agreement that will allow these Chambers to lobby for issues affecting them all, such as ferries and natural gas pricing, explained Matthews.
Collaboration was also a theme in Chamber co-ordinator Jeanne Ross’s report.
She explained that one of the Chamber board’s objectives for 2012 was increased collaboration and co-operation between local organizations, and the Chamber co-hosted a variety of events with the Chemainus Business Improvement Association and the Chemainus Residents Association and also worked with the Chemainus Advisory Committee on some issues and co-operated with Rotary, Neighbourhood House, the Heritage Society and the Mural Society, as well as working with the other four Cowichan Valley Chambers, she noted.
Chemainus Visitor Centre co-ordinator Marlie Kelsey had a positive report for the community, which showed an upward trend in visitors from May to October.
The number of visitors increased 16.9 per cent from 2011 to 2012, and Kelsey said it was interesting to compare the Chemainus Visitor Centre’s 2012 statistics with those from the different regions on the Island and the Island as a whole.
“Our tourist numbers showed an increase starting in May, while other regions did not show any increases until July,” she said. “While our year-end numbers were up, the Vancouver Island and B.C. year-end visitor totals still reflect the downward trend that started in 2010, although not as big a drop as in 2011. The Vancouver Island totals were lower than the B.C. numbers. This may be attributed to the BC Ferries costs, the price of gas, the strength of the Canadian dollar as compared to the U.S. dollar, the U.S. economy, and the loss of Japanese tourists.”
Kelsey says the increase in tourist numbers recorded in the Chemainus Visitor Centre in 2012 can be partially attributed to the higher number of buses the centre saw early in the year.
“In May, we saw an increase in visitors from Quebec and Australia arriving on bus tours. In the peak of the tourist season, we saw the highest number of visitors (in order) from Europe, B.C., other parts of Canada, the U.S. and Asia. We are starting to see some tourists from China, but most are on bus tours and not staying long in the community. We are seeing more Koreans, and the Japanese are slowly returning.”
According to Ed Nicholson of Saltair, who gave a presentation called The Chinese are Coming during the meeting, Chemainus businesses can expect to see more tourists from China. Nicholson spoke about how the number of Chinese tourists coming to Canada is expected to increase — and how businesses in Chemainus can capitalize on this expected surge.