Inside the historic CPR Station, originally built in 1923, the Oliver Visitor Centre is a hub of activity – especially during the summer months. Staff and volunteers serve hundreds of visitors each week providing directions, information and recommendations for things to do and places to go in Oliver. The centre is operated by the Oliver Tourism Association (OTA), a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to promote and identify tourism opportunities and activities within the Town of Oliver and surrounding area; encourage and support tourism initiatives; and to develop and market the destination brand of the “Wine Capital of Canada”.
Working hard towards achieving this mission for the past 11 years is Visitor Centre Manager Rhoda Brooks. Always ready to greet visitors with a warm welcome and her sense of humour, Rhoda takes
seriously her job of promoting all things Oliver, all the time. From recommending accommodation, restaurants and things to do in wine country, to promoting local special events to selling merchandise so tourists leave wearing or displaying a little piece of Oliver, Rhoda and her team of top-notch volunteers have left a positive impression on thousands of visitors over the years. “It’s easy to sell something you love”, says Brooks with a smile.
Due to the increase in visitors during the peak season and the growth of the objectives of the Oliver Tourism Association itself, the Visitor Centre staff team has also grown in 2016. Caroline Alarie joined the organization in May as the Outreach Coordinator with the goal of bringing a greater presence for the OTA at special events and by getting out and about to talk to people in and around Oliver. Part of Caroline’s role is to assist with promotion and delivery of cultural, sport and tourism events and services to generate increased tourism to the area. Caroline is bilingual (French and English) which has brought customer service to a new level. Using outreach to build relationships with agricultural workers and Lion’s Park users, Caroline has helped create a sense of mutual trust and respect and ensured that issues have been reported to the appropriate local authorities such as Bylaw Enforcement, RCMP and Parks and Recreation staff when necessary.
Simi Gill, a student at SOSS and a candidate for the Oliver Ambassador program started her summer job at the Visitor Centre at the end of June, funded in part by the Canada Summer Jobs grant program. Even though Gill has lived her whole life in Oliver, she admits she has learned much about her community working with Rhoda at the Centre. “These past 4 weeks have been an absolutely amazing learning experience” reflects Gill, “you realize how popular little ol’ Oliver is when people from all over the world come to visit our cute little town”. Simi is also bilingual (Punjabi and English) and is learning to speak French at school.
Rounding out the Tourism team is a key group of friendly and dedicated volunteers who give hours of their time each week to work a shift greeting visitors and promoting what Oliver has to offer in the Visitor Centre. Under the training and guidance of Rhoda Brooks, these volunteers continue to be an essential part of the Visitor Centre operation.
“The vibe in the Centre this year is very positive.” says Carol Sheridan, a member of the Oliver Tourism Association Board of Directors, “Having Caroline and Simi join forces with Rhoda and the volunteers in welcoming visitors to our community is a wonderful thing. We really do have a dream team there right now. ”
In addition to their work to provide tourism services through the Visitor Centre and outreach locations, staff also assist with the preparation and execution of the major special events supported by the Oliver Tourism Association such the Half Corked Marathon, Uncork the Sun and the Festival of the Grape.
If you haven’t stepped inside the Visitor Centre to talk with the staff and volunteers and peruse the incredible resources that are available be sure make the trip, you will definitely learn something new about Oliver. Visit the official Oliver Tourism website www.winecapitalofcanada.com for an up to date event calendar, member directory and all kinds of information about things to do in and around the Wine Capital of Canada.