Heritage Location Boosts Merritt Visitor Numbers
Written by TOTA
The number of people visiting Merritt’s downtown tourist information booth jumped by 30 per cent in 2011, and local officials are saying a big reason is its location in the increasingly popular Baillie House heritage attraction.
The Merritt Herald reported Feb. 8 that the number of people visiting the Baillie House Visitor Information Booth in 2011 hit nearly 15,000 – the highest total ever recorded. In each of the previous two years the visitor numbers were approximately 11,500.
The statistics show that August 2011 was the busiest month, with 3,127 visitors, and July and September saw 2,174 and 2,090 respectively. While 28 per cent of the visitors in 2011 were local, 54 per cent were from elsewhere in British Columbia, five per cent were from Alberta, five per cent were from Europe, two per cent were from elsewhere in Canada, two per cent came from Australia or Asia, two per cent were from Washington State and two per cent came from elsewhere in the United States. Ten buses stopped at the Baillie House last year, compared to four in 2010. The number of emails and phone calls to the centre were also up substantially in 2011.
Nicola Valley Heritage Society, operator of the Baillie House heritage property, has the contract from the city to provide visitor information services.
Sandy Curnow, who has managed the facility since it opened as a tourist booth six years ago, says, “I think (Baillie House is) becoming more of a tourist attraction. We have a lot of people coming back here year after year.”
Merritt Business & Economic Development Manager James Umpherson says historic Baillie House’s designation as the tourism and information booth tells residents that the historical site is an important component of the city. “We realize that they provide an excellent service to all of our visitors and guests.
Visitors drop in to the tourism booth for a variety of reasons, including for information, to buy local products and antiques, ask about local events, attend Art in the Garden tours or a Wellness Fair, use the picnic area or washrooms, or check the bus schedule. They also tour historic Baillie House – and last year as part of Merritt’s 100th anniversary the booth hosted a Pioneer Tea and Multicultural Day, which also helped to increase visitor numbers.
Curnow says people regularly comment about the uniqueness of Baillie House as a location for the visitor booth, and many tourists come back every year.