Sidney’s tourist services deal in the works

Sidney is going ahead with seeing what kind of new tourism services it can get for $60,000.

Sidney is going ahead with seeing what kind of new tourism services it can get for $60,000.

Councillors this week approved a request for proposals that would seek innovative and traditional ways of delivering services to tourists in Sidney. Sidney currently pays the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce $60,000 a year to deliver these services out of their Beacon Avenue information centre.

The Chamber has held the contract since 2010 and it’s set to expire December 31 this year.

Sidney Councillor Mervyn Lougher-Goodey, however, tried to change council’s mind on Monday.

“My concern is budgetary,” he said, noting bids for this service could come in higher than what the Town currently pays.

“I see the Town angling off here,” he said, noting there are many volunteers used under the Chamber’s current operation. “I’d hate to see a doubling up of the effort.”

He was also concerned that bids would only come back for the Beacon Avenue site.

Currently, the Chamber runs tourist information services out of the Beacon Avenue site, another on the Pat Bay Highway and additional services at the Anacortes Ferry terminal. Sidney’s contract with the chamber is specifically for the Beacon Avenue building, however the Chamber had noted that money helps support their service delivery at all three places.

Sidney Chief Administrative Officer Randy Humble said the request for proposals would include the Beacon Avenue building only, but also encourage bidders to suggest online or innovative ways of reaching tourists.

Coun. Cam McLennan suggested Sidney is taking this position on tourist services to focus their money on services for Sidney. He noted that while the Chamber directs visitors to places in North and Central Saanich, neither one of their neghbours contribute any money to the service.

“We are not satisfied with the level of service we are getting with the Chamber,” said Coun. Erin Bremner. “The $60,000 is supposed to be for Beacon Avenue only.”

She added, however, that the Chamber would be welcome to re-apply for the contract and any successful bidder would not have to completely re-invent the wheel.

Coun. Peter Wainwright added council is after good value for its money, saying they may stick to the $60,000 they are already allocating to visitor information services.

Council approved, in a 6-1 vote, the request for proposals be issued immediately, with a closing date of August 26, 2016.