Coquitlam makes another tourism push

Eric Kalnins is Coquitlam
Eric Kalnins is Coquitlam's new tourism manager, a three-year position funded by casino revenues.

More than a decade after Coquitlam spent thousands of dollars to commission a study on how to tackle tourism, the city has brought on a manager to stoke interest locally.

And it has recruited a person familiar in Vancouver circles for attracting out-of-town guests as well as getting residents excited about what they have in their own backyards.

Eric Kalnins brings a wealth of travel and tourism experience to the municipality, said David Munro, Coquitlam's economic development manager, citing Kalnins' work with Tourism Vancouver and BC Ferries.

During his seven years with Tourism Vancouver, Kalnins was part of the team that was dreaming of making Vancouver the host city of the 2010 winter Olympics. He helped to draw major sporting events — including the world weightlifting and figure skating competitions — and he worked closely with tour operators for cruise ship lines. Kalnins also was involved in the successful Dine Out Vancouver Festival to boost the hospitality industry.

At BC Ferries, Kalnins was travel and tourism manager, encouraging journalists to write about the province by travelling on the ferry network.

Now, Kalnins is taking note of Coquitlam's assets, creating an inventory, boosting the city's web presence and speaking with business people about what can be tapped — all building on a 140-page tourism strategy the city commissioned in 2002 as well as work by Barb Stegemann, a former tourism co-ordinator who consulted for Coquitlam.

Kalnins has three years to get his tourism program off the ground — and a tight budget of$100,000 to promote it.

Kalnins has read past city reports and publications, describing Coquitlam as "a hidden gem."

He shakes his head. "I don't want it to be that," he said. "I want it to be known."

The 11-year Coquitlam resident points to the city's sports fields and centres, trails, parks, shops and restaurants as well as the Riverview Hospital arboretum as being big draws — not just for day-trippers but, also, for local residents, many of whom are new to the city.

According to BC Statistics, Coquitlam is currently the fastest growing municipality in Metro Vancouver (up 3.2% from 2012 to ’13), with a population now at 138,000. And over the next 30 years, the head count is projected to rise by more than 87,000, potentially reaching a population of 225,000 by 2046.

Kalnins' aim is for Coquitlam residents and businesses to take ownership of their city, to experience and explore it with stay-cations and to encourage visitors to look around, especially when sports tournaments and festivals are happening.

He plans to build day itineraries for families, couples and single folk looking for something to do.

"I want to put the seed in people's minds of how much is available in Coquitlam," he said.

Coquitlam has many upcoming provincial, national and international events where the city can shine, he said, pointing to the 2014 Canadian Lacrosse Association President's Cup, the Men's U19 Field Lacrosse World Championships in 2016 and the ’16 BC Seniors Games.

Still, while Coquitlam has its attractions, so do its Tri-City neighbours.

"I would be a fool to ignore Port Moody and Port Coquitlam," Kalnins said, "but what I want is for people to spend most of their day in Coquitlam."


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