Gold Country Communities Society’s new chief operating officer John Hamilton (left) with Terri Hadwin (centre) and board member Steve Rice. Photo: GCCS.

Gold Country Communities Society welcomes new head to ‘God’s Country’

John Hamilton is looking forward to giving back to local communities and boosting tourism.

After six years as chief operating office of Gold Country Communities Society (GCCS), Terri Hadwin has moved on to pursue new opportunities, and John Hamilton has been appointed the new COO. He has been living and working on Vancouver Island, but says that following his appointment last month, he is in the process of moving to “God’s country”.

Hamilton has a long background in travel, sales, and marketing, beginning with Trafalgar Tours in his native England. He was transferred to New York and then Toronto, and fell in love with Canada, where he has worked for companies including BCAA and WestJet.

“I’ve worked with for-profit organizations until now,” he says, “and really had a strong desire to work on the not-for-profit side and give back. I’ve worked for tourism businesses in small towns, and have lots of experience in and around small communities in B.C. I want to help with local tourism.”

He notes that adventure and the outdoors are the fastest-growing tourism sectors, and that both are a big part of the attraction of Gold Country. “We have to make sure that people outside the area know of these opportunities,” he says, adding that GCCS already has world-class Geocaching opportunities. “People get in touch with us from all over the world, asking how to do [what we’ve done]. And the Geocaching books [now available for free from the GCCS office in Cache Creek] have so much history in them.”

He admits that GCCS is currently “a little weak” on the digital side. “I want to catch up with technology. Millennials do their business and get their information via technology. We need to make sure that our information can be found.” He would also like to continue exploring the Bead Trail initiative and make more of it, but notes that they have had some resistance from local businesses in implementing the project.

Hamilton adds that the priority of GCCS right now is recovery from last year’s wildfires. “Business was down 32 per cent over the region in 2017. Our priority is to get visitors back. We need to show we’re open for business, so over the summer we’ll be working on a couple of promotions.

“We’re encouraging residents to be a tourist in their own region, and then tell their family and friends about Gold Country. When people come to visit residents, the question is ‘What do we do with them?’ If you’ve experienced the region’s attractions you can recommend them to others. This is a great place to live and a great place to visit, so we need to get residents behind tourism. The more we can get the community to be ambassadors for the area, the better it is for our region.”

Hamilton says he’s been overwhelmed by the reception from people welcoming him to the area, and is looking forward to marketing and promoting the region to those who are unfortunate enough to live elsewhere. “It’s one of the most beautiful parts of the world.”

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