Still Going Strong

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If you wondered whatever happened to Victoria AM, we’re happy to say that after more than a thousand meetings and 26 years, the city’s pre-eminent tourism promotion group is still going.

“We’re just kind of refreshing ourselves. You just don’t let something like that fade out,” says Louise Chabros midway through her second year as president.

She’s a Victoria native who left 35 years ago, and returned to the coast in 2005 from Calgary where she ran a small greeting card firm. Now she handles training at ENS, a Victoria design and new media business. Vic AM began in 1984 and the founders were Oak Bay Mayor Christopher Causton (a restaurant owner back then) and Victoria Coun. Chris Coleman (a marketer and consultant). The early Friday breakfasts were a hit with people working at hotels, restaurants, attractions, airlines and bus companies, marketing — anyone in the visitor business.

They gathered at a different restaurant every week to network, joke around a bit, hear a guest speaker and plan promotional events. It also spun off Victoria PM, an informal after-work mixer. Interest in Victoria AM faded a little in the last few years and membership stopped growing, but it’s starting to pick up now.

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Breakfast meetings are just once a month, on the second Friday — yes, still at 7:30 a.m. — and mixers are on the fourth Tuesday evening. It’s usually a slow night in the hospitality sector, so it means more people can attend — and the host place can use the business, she explains Vic AM still carries on the cruise ship visitor program, which florist Fitzsimmons organized back in the early 1980s. With more than 200 ship visits a year now, the meet-and-greet at Ogden Point can always use volunteers and the period costumes are now optional. Bright yellow VicAM jackets will identify guides who can answer passengers’ questions.

Chabros says Victoria AM has close to 90 members, and is adding two or three new ones a month. Longtime AMers like Ian Haddow, Norma Fitzsimmons, Tommy Mayne and Harry Godfrey are still involved. For individuals, membership is $89 a year, while a corporate deal covering three persons is $199. An office at 189 Dallas Road is staffed weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. See www.victoriaam.com