Merritt City Council voted during its January 24 regular meeting to execute a three-year tourism and visitor information services agreement with the Nicola Valley Heritage Society (NVHS), who run the local heritage site and tourist attraction as a visitor information centre. In its 17 years operating as a tourist information site, the Baillie House has hosted 298,926 visitors to the property, with the site’s future now secured for another three years. 

Since beginning operations as a tourism information centre in 2006, the Baillie House has hosted thousands of visitors, events, and special activities. Since 2018, when the provincial government closed the popular Exit 286 tourism information centre, the Baillie House has operated on one year contracts to serve as Merritt’s new visitor centre. Looking back on a busy year in 2022, executives with the NVHS told City Council that they look to keep going for the foreseeable future.

“The Baillie Property provides a unique experience that draws back to our site and to downtown Merritt every time they come to our town,” said Jack Polmans, a volunteer with the NVHS, in his presentation to Council.

“In 2022, the Merritt Visitor Information Centre saw an increase in visitors of 8.5 percent, for a total of 23,685 visitors. The number of visitors have slowly increased since 2020, when COVID restrictions greatly affected travel.”

The recommendation initially put forward to Council by City staff suggested another one year contract with the NVHS for $56,000, half of which is paid for by the Destination BC Visitors Services Network Agreement. This motion was ultimately defeated, with Council opting for a three year extension with a built in inflation adjustment rate, at the same yearly cost of $56,000. 

This move satisfied NVHS representatives, with Polmans telling Council during his presentation that the year-to-year funding scenario made job security difficult, and requested a minimum of three years.

“It would make it an awful lot easier for us, as a committee, to have at least a three year contract,” added Polmans.

“That way when we hire people, we can at least guarantee them that job for three years. It would be appreciated if we could increase that to at least three years.”

The Baillie House is located at 2250 Voght Street, and currently operating on its winter hours of Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00am to 4:00pm. For more information, call 250-378-0349.