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Tourism Prince George looking to move visitor centre

The public can take part in an online survey on the two proposed locations.
Tourism Prince George front doors
Tourism Prince George is considering relocating its visitor centre from its current home in the Via Rail station on First Avenue.

Tourism Prince George is looking at moving its visitor centre from its location in the Via Rail building on First Avenue.

Staff and visitors have expressed safety concerns about the current location, near the intersection of First Avenue and Quebec Street, city council heard on Monday night. In addition, the location is inconvenient for visitors arriving on Highway 97.

“It is experiencing low traffic and declining traffic, year over year,” consultant Josh Nycholat said, during a Tourism Prince George presentation to city council. “It’s not near places where people are visiting for other reasons – for entertainment, for shopping or services.”

A location inside Pine Centre Mall or in the rotunda of the Prince George Conference and Civic Centre have been identified as possible alternative locations, Nycholat said.

“(Pine Centre Mall is) a prime site for a visitor centre,” he said. “Cost is a significant consideration… (but) it is still worth consideration.”

The mall has easy access from both highways, plenty of parking, draws 4.9 million visitors per year, billboard advertising is available along the highway and would offer a chance to increase merchandise sales from walk-by traffic, he said. The rent would be higher and the mall is open longer hours, which would mean a significant increase in staffing costs.

Converting the rotunda of the civic centre into a visitor centre would have the advantage of being a city-owned facility, keeping the visitor centre downtown, easy walking distance from downtown hotels, the civic centre, library and Two Rivers Gallery, and the possibility of using the Canada Games Plaza for tourism-related events, Nycholat said.

“The office and storage space is a challenge at the civic centre,” he said, but the administrative staff could be located off-site in another building.

Tourism Prince George CEO Colin Carson said modern visitors do a lot of their research online, rather than seeking out a visitor centre.

“We are picking locations where visitors are already going,” Carson said. “They are not going to go out of their way to come to (us).”

Other locations, including co-locating by The Exploration Place or Central B.C. Railway and Forestry Museum, were considered, but the cost of building a new facility was too high, given the current construction market, Carson said.

The status quo option is to remain in their current spot on First Avenue.

Tourism Prince George will be conducting an online survey over the next two weeks to gather public input on the proposed locations.

The Tourism Prince George board of directors is “chomping at the bit” to move forward, Carson said.

“As soon as September we could be looking at a decision.”