Virtual tourism

Thanks to Tourism Rossland local businesses can now be toured over Google.

Tourism Rossland recently took on a major project under contract for the Lower Columbia Community Development Team Society (LCCDTS) that saw the organization overseeing an online tourism initiative for not just Rossland, but the region.

The project was funded in partnership between the Community Directed Funds committee of the LCCDTS and Kootenay Rockies Tourism, and it was the first step in promoting the entire region as a destination rather than just individual towns.

Each of the 57 businesses from Rossland, Trail, and Fruitvale that participated received a Kootenay Rockies Tourism listing, and either a Google tour or Google verification.

“We actually had a representative of Google come into town and visit each of the locations, and do panoramic photos of each the interiors of the businesses,” explained Kristi Calder, marketing coordinator for Tourism Rossland. “And then for any of the businesses that already had a Google tour done, they got a verification, which just essentially optimizes their online setup and presence with Google.”

The tours allows Google users to take a virtual walk around the inside of the businesses, and are still being released, though they were all shot between July 6 and 12.

Most of the businesses that already had virtual tours were in Rossland, and participated when Tourism Rossland offered the tours locally three years ago.

When it came to selecting which businesses would participate in the current project, Tourism Rossland wanted to be fair, while first promoting businesses with the most tourist draw.

“We tried to show a really good geographic range, so we tried to have businesses from each different community, and then at the same time we were really focused on accommodations and attractions,” said Deanne Steven, Tourism Rossland’s executive director. “So those were the preliminary ones that we really wanted to get in because … there’s just such a high tourism component for those.”

Second priority went to retail stores and restaurants.

Calder said that so far businesses that have launched their tours and shared them on social media are getting a positive response.

“It seems to be quite popular through the social media channels for sure, having the interior panoramic shots, and they’re getting shared quite a bit,” she said.

The project also included a workshop that any business in the area was welcome to attend. The workshop focused on showing business owners how to optimize their Google+ pages to improve their online presence.