Oak Bay puts a friendly face on tourism

Oak Bay Tourism session looks at branding opportunities

Coun. Tom Croft at a trail head straight off Oak Bay Avenue. Stakeholders at a recent branding session suggested Oak Bay needs more signage or other measures to help people find the waterfront from the village.

Coun. Tom Croft at a trail head straight off Oak Bay Avenue. Stakeholders at a recent branding session suggested Oak Bay needs more signage or other measures to help people find the waterfront from the village.

Friendly. That’s the word that won out after a vote from about 50 stakeholders representing all walks of business and residents at the latest branding session hosted by the Oak Bay Tourism Committee.

The vote was in response to the question: “If you could only choose three words to describe Oak Bay what would they be?” That was one of many thought-provoking questions put forward to the group at the March 2 meeting.

“It was a really good session, we got a lot of excellent feedback,” said Coun. Tom Croft, council liaison to the Oak Bay Tourism Committee. “We’ve got a clear understanding of what people see the current brand of Oak Bay is and where they would like to see the brand move to.”

Oak Bay Tourism made a short presentation to council recently to recap highlights from 2014 and offer an overview of the 2015 plan and priorities.

As part of their stakeholder engagement, Oak Bay Tourism budgeted $7,000 this year for brand foundation workshops such as the session at municipal hall last week.

“Overall we seemed to repeat the same things that have been repeated in the past, but I think we have to deliver. What I’m getting from people is we need to deliver on the promise that you have a unique experience in Oak Bay … Are we delivering to the degree that we would like to?” Croft said. “A lot of that is not just marketing but destination development.”

For example, things to draw people to the community, and provide things like boat rentals at the shoreline.

Oak Bay Marina, for example, has plans to bring back fishing vessel rentals, providing an option for visitors.

But a part of the issue identified is getting guests, and new residents, from the village to the water.

“We seem to be missing the usage of our waterfront so there’s a lot of ideas there,” Croft said. “We don’t have that way-finding from the village, it’s a direct line, but we don’t have that way-finding.”

The question: “What would you like to see as a result of this branding process?” got a few contradictory statements such as bury the Tweed image and build on traditions.

Build and bury isn’t a new concept, said Croft.

“We’ve been through bury the Tweed to embrace the Tweed. From tourism’s point of view we want to build on the Tweed but the new Tweed, not stiff British,” said Croft.

He was a part of the committee for three years prior to being elected to council last fall and part of the original branding strategies.

“We know that we’re moving away from it (old Tweed) with the young people and the demand for more walking, more cycling and more community activities,” Croft said.

This year the annual Tweed Ride moves into Oak Bay on Aug. 8, providing the kick-off event to arts and culture week that will include the annual car show on Oak Bay Avenue and wrap with Bowker Brush up. Both are fairly lengthy traditions in Oak Bay.

Those types of activities could create some linkage to another area of concern heard at the branding session, geographical connection.

“The other thing I heard … the community is fragmented,” Croft said. “The community is saying they want more collaboration with more communities (within) Oak Bay.”

Consultant Dan Dagg of Hot House Marketing is expected to report on the findings from the two-hour session in about three months.

 

cvanreeuwyk@oakbaynews.com