Board turnover delivers transition to tourism group

SRTA’s AGM on Monday will be at Sooke Harbour House

The Sooke Region Tourism Association is looking for new blood and a new direction, after three of its members quit before this year’s annual general meeting.

The most recent were the association’s chair, Jonathan Heerema and longtime director Frederique Philip.

As a result of the departures, there are now three open positions on the eight-person SRTA board, one chair and two directors, all volunteers.

Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, said Heerema, whose term had just expired after serving for five years as chair.

“It’s a perfect time for transition,” he said, adding that part of the reason for his departure is to allow some new ideas to flow into the association, and that, simply, it was time to call it a day.

“There’s not a full understanding on how many hours you put in as a volunteer, especially when most communities have a full-time paid staff running their tourism,” Heerema said. “To give five years of free work, you kind of reach your expiration point.”

SRTA still managed to set a few milestones along the way though. It became the first group in the province to do private and public co-op marketing, which is now the template for Destination B.C.’s current modus operandi of all its other agencies.

This includes a new website, along with an increase in metrics such as more maps and visitor guides being picked up year over year.

Still, the association now has a hole in its overall personnel.

Its other two members, Frederique Philip and Nigel Keatley, both left due to personal matters about their own respective businesses, and that there was nothing disingenuous going on, noted Coun. Ebony Logins, the District of Sooke’s liaison with SRTA.

“These directors completed their term and gave notice so that other community members will be aware that there is an opening and prepare to be nominated for the position,” she said.

Rob Martin, SRTA’s secretary, said that while a replacement for Heerema is yet to turn up, the association still needs to change to continue doing its work, most of which is done well beyond Sooke and Vancouver Island’s borders.

“Our rules are geared toward doing what we do over the horizon to bring people here from far away. We can’t throw up a billboard in Sooke or Victoria or Nanaimo, and say, ‘Come to Sooke,’” he said, adding that a major part of SRTA’s operations is marketing online and in foreign markets.

In its agreement with the District of Sooke, which provides SRTA with $23,000 annually, it is required to provide a report each year for how they spend the funds the following year.

As such, the district can increase or decrease funds based on a review of projects SRTA plans to undertake, which can also include termination of its services, said Teresa Sullivan, the district’s chief administrative officer.

SRTA’s future path will be discussed at its AGM held on Monday (Feb. 29) at the Sooke Harbour House, from 7 to 9 p.m.