A stakeholder survey by the Cumberland Chamber has indicated that marketing of the Village to tourists and other visitors is a top priority for local business.
"The survey helped us to identify the priorities and activities that Cumberland businesses and stakeholders desire," said chamber president Evan Loveless. "This is important information for our organization as we look at re-defining our core activities."
The survey offered a list of possible marketing activities with a focus on the historic Village including the www.cumberlandbc.org website, media relations and attraction, promotion of special events, and web and print-based marketing materials. All of these activities were rated as important or very important by respondents.
Survey respondents also offered feedback and ideas about the future of tourism development in the Village. These comments included forging closer ties with Mount Washington Alpine Resort, focusing on Comox Lake as a major asset, supporting the development of special events and finding ways to increase overnight visitations. When asked what kind of economic development activities they hoped to see in the future, respondents had outdoor recreation, music, arts and culture, and health and wellness as their top three.
Until last April, the Cumberland Chamber was funded to manage an official Tourism BC Visitor Centre. This core activity gave the Cumberland Chamber the leverage to offer other value added services to the community including providing stories, photos and contacts to media and tourism publications, and promoting Village arts, culture and recreation opportunities, and special events. Since that contract has been terminated there are few resources at hand to champion the tourism product of the Village.
"Cumberland is at a critical point in its development as a 'destination' for outdoor recreation, heritage, arts and culture," Loveless said. "There is a great deal of exciting product development underway in the Village right now. The municipality is working on key issues related to access to mountain biking and hiking trails. Significant heritage buildings are undergoing renovation. The Cumberland Museum has made major upgrades. Local pubs, restaurants and galleries are offering excellent programming. Adventure businesses are leading adventure seekers off into the wilds of Vancouver Island. This kind of product development has required a huge amount of commitment from the community."
The Cumberland Chamber believes that the "Historic Village of Cumberland" holds potential to be a significant draw not just for Village businesses but for the Valley as a whole. But they also believe that this opportunity calls for concrete plans and targeted resources with a focus on Cumberland's unique offering. In fact, the future of many businesses in Cumberland may be hanging in the balance. The responsibility and funding for promoting Cumberland lies with Comox Valley Tourism, a part of the Comox Valley Economic Development Society.
"We hope that the Economic Development Society has the passion and priorities to respond to the incredible opportunity that exists in the Village," Loveless said. "We have expressed our willingness to both the Village of Cumberland and Economic Development to provide some of these tourism marketing services but without funding or mandate our hands are tied. We have to look for opportunities to partner with other organizations to provide support to the local tourism and business community, and hope for the best."