By Tim Collins/Contributor
Whether it’s the Sidney street market, the concerts, the fairs or the spectacular Christmas festivities, there’s no doubt that Sidney by the Sea is brimming with events and activities. Given that situation, Sidney should have no problem in attracting visitors.
Yet, based upon last year’s tourist figures, visits to Sidney and to the Saanich Peninsula in general have been flat and it’s a challenge that the Sidney Community Development Committee is meeting head-on.
The Development Committee is an ad hoc group formed by town council to address the question of how best to bring more footsteps into Sidney, according to committee chair, Cliff McNeil-Smith.
“There’s a gap between events and marketing and it’s important to get all the stakeholders on the same page and to offer them some support,” said McNeil-Smith.
On Sept. 23, the Committee presented council with a report which called for the establishment of an event liaison position.
Specifically, it was recommended the position should be under contract to Distinctly Sidney (also known as the Sidney Business Improvement Area) with funding for the position to be shared between that organization and the Town of Sidney.
The event liaison would be responsible for working collaboratively with businesses, community organizations and individuals who host events.
Council received the report but did not immediately adopt its recommendations, although they did pass a motion that stated that council sees merit in the proposal.
They then passed the matter back to administration, asking that a further report be prepared to review the funding and governance of the proposed position.
It’s not the first time the position has been studied by administration.
The position of a community events coordinator was identified by staff in a January, 21, 2011 report to council which was a follow-up to a 2010 document which also focused on the need for a community events coordinator.
Then, at the Sept. 17, 2012 Administration and Finance Committee meeting it was resolved that “a future Events Coordinator/Community Development Officer position within the Town of Sidney be referred to the 2013 Budget deliberations.”.
There was also some discussion at that time as to whether a stand-alone events coordinator was needed or whether the role should be part time or merged with functions such as economic development or communications.
The delays are a little frustrating for McNeil-Smith, but he said he is hopeful that, this time around, the position will be established.
“We all know we should be doing better than we are,” said McNeil-Smith.
He said a key measure of the event liaison’s success will be the numbers — specifically the attendance to events and to downtown Sidney businesses.
If the report is adopted, the event liaison will have help in achieving those increased numbers.
That report calls for periodic input from a core group of advisory stakeholders, including: the Sidney Event Advisory Group, the Mary Winspear Centre, the Community Arts Council of the Saanich Peninsula, the Peninsula Celebrations Society, the Sidney Historical Museum and the Town of Sidney.
“We’re all in this together, and together we can make it work,” said McNeil-Smith.
The Committee’s report also contained a list of 12 essential duties and responsibilities and called for an increased level of awareness of events to be created with Sidney businesses.
That is particularly true of those events that have the potential for creating increased patron traffic in those businesses.
That awareness opens the door for an increase in promotional and sponsorship opportunities.
“That sort of synergy helps everyone,” said McNeil-Smith. “Not only the events, but the businesses, the visitors, our residents — they’re all going to benefit.”
No date has been set for the administrative report on the question, but McNeil-Smith is confident that it will not be a lengthy process this time around.