Sidney’s BIA is making marketing strides

Sidney’s fledgling Business Improvement Association (BIA) is exploring partnership options with Tourism Victoria

Sidney’s fledgling Business Improvement Association (BIA) is exploring partnership options with Tourism Victoria to help the retail core of the community take advantage of the larger group’s marketing acumen.

BIA executive director Donna Petrie says she recently had a group from Tourism Victoria on a familiarization tour of Sidney and the area.

“We are the gateway to the Island and this will be a good partnership,” she said in a recent interview with the PNR.

Petrie and BIA board chair and president Cliff McNeil-Smith sat down to discuss the recent BIA annual general meeting and progress made by the BIA over its first year of operation. Petrie said making the connection with Tourism Victoria will take the BIA to a new level of marketing and promoting all that Sidney has to offer.

The BIA was established last year to collect a fee from all downtown-area businesses. The money, which is collected by the Town of Sidney, goes to the BIA for use in marketing programs and related initiatives. It’s goal is to bring more shoppers and visitors into downtown Sidney.

“We call this our start-up year,” said McNeil-Smith.

He said the BIA has created new marketing and promotions material. For instance, he said an estimated 12,000 copies of a new Sidney brochure was distributed on B.C. Ferries, the Anacortes Ferry and throughout hotels. They went so fast, he said, another 15,000 were printed.

These are only a couple of the measurable accomplishments of the BIA, McNeil-Smith said. From its outset, the BIA was tasked with proving it could do good work and help better the fortunes of local businesses. Petrie said the BIA board has come up with 20 marketing and promotions activities — from videos to its website ( and a new online community events calendar.

“People, I think, were really impressed during the AGM,” she said.

Petrie, who has worked in the past with Tourism Victoria, said she use those connections to help attract them out to Sidney for a look.

“This is to help generate a plan to bring Sidney to the table to be able to bid on meetings, conferences and other events,” Petrie explained.

One of the reasons Tourism Victoria is looking further afield, said McNeil-Smith, is at the insistence of Butchart Gardens. He said they had approached Tourism Victoria and other stakeholders on additional tourism options in the region. Visitors, McNeil-Smith said, had been asking about other things to do, in addition to the Gardens, in the south Island. It’s here, he said, where Sidney can claim its share.

“It’s a new level that we’ve reached now,” Petrie added.

The BIA is working in collaboration with the Town and a variety of groups to help promote the area near and far.

With a budget of $250,000 in its first year (which has gone up in 2014 to $256,000), the BIA is trying to get as much mileage out of it as possible.

It’s membership sits now at 115 registered individuals. More are encouraged to sign up, as all businesses in the downtown core of Sidney are automatically involved and are paying an annual BIA fee.

McNeil-Smith added there are 12 to 14 associate members — such as Butchart Gardens, Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre and the Mary Winspear Centre.

All told, those members represent 175 to 180 businesses and property owners in Sidney.

At its recent AGM, the BIA welcomed three new directors — Brad Edgett of the Mary Winspear Centre, Denis Paquette of the Sidney Waterfront Inn & Suites and Bob Whyte, owner of the Dairy Queen property. They replaced outgoing directors Angus Matthews, Dan Perrin and Keyla Perry.