By on September 29, 2009

OSOYOOS TIMES-September 30, 2009

By Paul Everest – Osoyoos Times

After nearly four months of negotiations, the Town of Osoyoos has announced major changes to its relationship with Destination Osoyoos (DO).
In a media release issued jointly by the Town and DO on Sept. 25, the Town said it will award a three-year contract to DO for the provision of tourism marketing and visitor services that will take effect Jan. 1, 2010, and last until 2012.
Under the new contract, which has not been finalized, DO will receive $120,000 per year from the Town and will no longer carry out economic development services for Osoyoos.
Under DO’s previous five-year contract with the Town, which expires Dec. 31, the organization received $226,000 per year.
Economic development services will now be carried out by the Town.
Osoyoos Mayor Stu Wells said the new contract is a result of four meetings between the Town and DO which began in May in which DO’s services were reviewed.
It is also the result of a summit that took place on April 24 where members of town council, local business owners and representatives of the South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce and DO shared ideas on the future of economic development in Osoyoos.
Wells said discussions at the summit revealed that the direction of economic development here should change.
In the new year, the Town will hire someone on a termed contract to oversee economic development services in Osoyoos, Wells said, and the $106,000 the Town will be saving each year through the new contract will go towards economic development.
He added that the Town intends to focus economic development efforts on meeting the needs of local businesses and strengthening Osoyoos’s business community.
The Town will also look at establishing a “Business Improvement Area,” an association of local business people
working collectively for common business goals, as well as improving Internet-based economic development for the town.
Another workshop, similar to April’s summit, may happen in the future to help further define goals for economic development in the community, Wells said.
The new contract will also mean that provincial Resort Municipality funding collected through the two-per-cent hotel room tax will be administered by the Town when the contract comes into effect next year.
But “DO will continue to work with the local tourism industry to co-ordinate spending of the approximately $200,000 raised each year in Osoyoos by the two-per-cent Additional Hotel Room Tax (AHRT), for tourism promotion,” the media release reads.
The long-term contract between the province and DO for operation of Osoyoos’s Visitor Information Centre will remain unchanged.
To ensure public accountability for the money given to DO and improve communication between the organization and the Town, two town councillors will sit on DO’s board of directors as non-voting members and one of them will join the board’s executive.
Derek Noske, chair of DO’s board, said he feels the new arrangement confirms the confidence and trust the Town has placed in DO over the past 10 years.
He said the new contract will likely not lead to any staffing changes within the organization or restrict DO’s sphere of operations.
The organization’s payroll is not more than $120,000, Noske said.
He added that the changes shouldn’t affect DO’s funding from other sources as many of the grants it receives are for marketing.
And programs such as off-season ski packages developed with local hotels or advertising the town at upcoming national curling tournaments won’t be affected, Noske said.
As for what’s ahead for DO, Noske said the organization plans to introduce a new governance process to give tourism-related businesses more say in DO’s operations.
Under the new process, he said, businesses will be able to make nominations to DO’s board and vote at its annual general meeting and other “special meetings.”
The new model would take effect in the new year.
Noske also said there won’t be a decision on a new chief executive officer (CEO) for DO until the beginning of 2010.
Former CEO Glenn Mandziuk, who took a position as CEO of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association in April, has served as a special consultant to DO’s nine-member board for the past six months and will continue in that role until the end of October, Noske said.
After that, he will stay on as one of DO’s directors.
Wells and Noske said the negotiation process undertaken to reach the new arrangement was a positive one.
“The demeanor was good,” Wells said, adding that, although he “thought it would be tougher,” both sides showed “respect and a willingness to come together.”
He said he expects the new contract to be finalized before the end of October.
Noske said the focus of the negotiations was always about finding the best way to deliver economic development services in Osoyoos and to keep the Town’s $70 million tourism industry healthy and well promoted.
He said he felt the Town and DO have achieved that through the new arrangement.
“A good business transaction is one that benefits both equally and I think we’ve arrived at that.”

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