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Two Comox Valley visitor centres will close in the spring

After several years of serving the Comox Valley, the Visitor Centre on Cliffe Avenue in Courtenay will close in the spring when the Vancouver Island Visitor Centre opens its doors.
The latter is scheduled to open April 1 at the interchange of the Inland Island Highway and the Comox Valley Parkway.
"We've been the official visitor centre for the Comox Valley for over 50 years," said Dianne Hawkins, president-CEO at the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce. "There won't be an overlap."
The closure means two full-time staff members and one half-timer will lose their jobs. But the Chamber of Commerce will remain as is, "meeting the needs of the community as well as the business community," Hawkins said.
The organization relies on membership revenue.
"Our quality service reports were 98 per cent when we have mystery shoppers come in and do our tests," Hawkins said. "We've always had very high ratings."
Hawkins said the closure will impact the community, especially considering 60 per cent of visitors are locals.
"We consistently have held numbers around 22,000 to 25,000 a year," Hawkins said. "I wish them (new centre) all the best."
The visitor centre in Cumberland will also cease operating as of March 31, at least in an official capacity.
"It's a big change," Cumberland Chamber of Commerce president Meaghan Cursons said. "It's been really wonderful to have the dollars from local government. We've been able to do some good promotional work for the village, and to provide a professional visitor centre, and to draw people into our historic, downtown core."
The centre had operated several years with a full-time employee and summer students. With the assistance of volunteers, the Chamber will continue to provide tourism information out of the museum.
"We look forward to learning about the role the new centre will play in promoting our downtown in Cumberland," Cursons said. 
Adventure Management Ltd. has been contracted to operate the centre at Small Road in Cumberland. The company operates visitor centres in Kamloops, Merritt, Osoyoos, Mount Robson and Valemount in northern B.C., where it is based.
The owners were in the Comox Valley last week interviewing potential employees.
"It has been amazing," Wendy Dyson said. "We've had over 300 applications. We haven't actually hired any one as of yet, but we'll have them in place very soon...This is the most we have ever received."
She recalls a previous high of about 140 applications.
"We should have a really good staff in place," said Dyson, who figures most, if not all, staff will be from the Comox Valley since local knowledge was a key area tested during the interview process.
Adventure Management Ltd. was recently nominated employer-of-the-year for the Thompson-Okanagan tourism region.
"We know our employees are our most important resource, so we try to be a good employer," Dyson said, noting staffing levels will vary according to seasons.
In winter, for instance, there are just three employees at other centres while numbers at least double in the summer.
reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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