Alive After Five, a two-week effort to enhance visitor and resident experiences downtown, got rolling and rocking Monday night.
Some merchants closed shop at regular hours Monday evening but Focus Downtown — a partnership of organizations working to build tourism business — is hoping enough remain open to make the investment worthwhile over the long run.
“From our perspective, we needed to put something in motion,” said Monica Dickinson of Tourism Kamloops. “This trial for the next two weeks is really the starting point for future initiatives.”
A break-even will be judged a success, she added.
The idea is, by extending opening hours and offering sidewalk activities such as live music and patio dining, they’ll improve the summer ambience and create a catalyst, not only for tourism growth but for business in general. It’s part of a longer term plan, one aimed at enhancing the city as a destination, not merely a brief stopover.
“From a destination perspective, success comes in building overnight, incremental stays,” Dicknson said.
“Expectations?” said Gay Pooler, general manager of Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association. “Hopefully, everybody who comes down enjoys it, has a good experience and comes back again.”
Not all businesses had the time, staff or resources to commit to the pilot project, she noted.
“Everybody who could swing it, bought in,” Pooler said.
Those that did buy in will remain open until 9 p.m. until Sept. 2.
Venture Kamloops, the chamber, City and Rocky Mountaineer are also behind Alive After Five.
The City pitched in with the KCBIA to cover the cost of live music — three stages over three blocks.
Venture Kamloops will be gathering data to gauge the level of response, while Rocky Mountaineer will see how the effort registers in its passenger feedback, Pooler said. CAP Team members will do their usual pedestrian counts as well.
Ordinarily, the customer traffic downtown is fairly stable, she noted. There seemed to be a few more tourists strolling along Victoria Monday, engaging in the music and games provided along the sidewalk.
Walking tours will be provided Tuesdays and Thursdays during the pilot at 6:45 p.m.
Beverly DeSantis, CEP of Tourism Kamloops, said preliminary figures show that local visitors have increased significantly this summer, up 32 percent overall in July. The low Canadian dollar is generally credited with the tourism increase.
"All year we've been up," DeSantis said, reinforcing statistics released by the province Monday showing that international visitors to B.C. crested the two-million mark for the first six months of the year. "May was a record month overall.
"It's been a banner year for tourism all over B.C. and specifically for Kamloops," she added.
While European visitors were up by 26 percent, there was also a noticeable spike in Mexican visitors — 11 percent.
DeSantis said they've been strategic with marketing efforts, targeting markets that are more likely to respond to the city's unique mix of recreation and culture.
"Where we're going to see a lot of effort for 2017 is into our drive market in the U.S.