Municipalities spearhead tourism funding lobby effort

The Summer Concert Series has been a direct result of the provincial RMI funding. - File Photo
The Summer Concert Series has been a direct result of the provincial RMI funding. – File Photo

Sun Peaks Mayor Al Raine, along with representatives from other resort communities in B.C., is pushing to extend an expiring provincial funding program beyond next year.

The Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) helps 14 tourism-based communities in B.C. with funding for projects to support visitation, amenities, activities, employment and the tourism economy. The RMI program is set to end in December 2017 following a two-year extension.

Raine is part of a committee pushing to see the program continue. The committee has shortlisted consultants to conduct a study of the RMI funding which is to be presented to Minister of Tourism, Jobs and Skills Training Shirley Bond at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in September.

“That will be a study that will review the history, the achievements, strengths and weaknesses of the existing program and make recommendations to government about how that should continue after 2017,” Raine said.

Bond said the government plans to review the program in 2017, including potential changes and improvements to better help these communities.

“I will welcome that input and we’ll certainly have a discussion about that as government,” Bond said of thepending study.

“I know the government will take a very serious look at the end of 2017 to say ‘what should the future program look like? Is this one working the way it should?’ ”

The RMI funds have been a key factor in the growth of Sun Peaks’ summer visitation. The Summer Concert Series, for example, have been a direct result of the RMI investment.

“That’s of crucial importance to Sun Peaks. It represents about $300,000 that the community’s receiving that we’re able to put into tourism events, attractions and infrastructure,” Raine said. “Those RMI funds that we’ve received from the province have been absolutely crucial. We couldn’t have done any of the free concert series without those funds. I think those big name, free concerts definitely launched Sun Peaks as an active summer resort.”

According to the Sun Peaks municipal budget, RMI funds account for 7.9 per cent of total revenue in 2016.

Sun Peaks will be allocating RMI funds differently with fewer dollars being spent on summer concerts. The program requires 70 per cent of funds be spent on infrastructure; however, chief administrative officer Rob Bremner said at March’s budget presentation Sun Peaks received an exception to split the funds 50-50 between infrastructure and events in 2016 before adjusting to the provincial norm for 2017.