City rebuffs chamber's tourism ambitions
Chamber of commerce disappointed with city decision to move tourism information
By: Viola Pruss
| Posted: Saturday, Feb 23, 2013 06:00 am
The local chamber of commerce is disappointed that it won’t be allowed to run the tourism centre located at the southern edge of St. Albert.
The city’s economic development branch used to handle tourism information at the site but that department moved out in January.
The St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce, which still occupies the building, wanted to run the centre under a service agreement with the city but the city declined the offer.
Chamber president and CEO Lynda Moffat said she spoke to city manager Patrick Draper and was told that the city had no budget to finance tourism development with the chamber.
The chamber wanted to keep the centre open, expanding its services to Saturdays and Sundays, and evenings in the summer months.
“Right now they don’t do that and we would also set up a tourist centre in our farmers’ market and at the trade show,” Moffat said.
Moffat added that many businesses depend on non-residential dollars. Without the tourism centre at the entrance to St. Albert, she fears that visitors won’t know where to go and businesses will lose money.
The city “made a big commitment for branding, let’s bring the people here and when they get here they don’t know what to do,” she said.
“For us it was a disappointment and we feel badly about it.”
After sharing the former Business and Visitor Centre with the chamber for a number of years, the city’s economic development branch moved to a downtown location in January.
Signs at the building at 71 St. Albert Tr. will be taken down in the coming month.
On Monday, city council will vote on a new lease agreement with the chamber.
Since the move, the tourism website and marketing activities have been managed from the new office of economic development at 29 Sir Winston Churchill Ave., The city will move visitor brochures to St. Albert Place.
Draper said this allows visitors and residents to access them throughout the week and on weekends. Another rack of brochures will move into Servus Credit Union Place, which is also open on weekends, he said.
Draper added that the chamber lacks the staff to run the centre and would have required extra funding to bring in employees and summer students.
“We really did not have the budget to give them the money they were looking for and it’s really not their business and they are not structured that way,” he said.
“And they would have to add a whole new level of services to what they are doing when we can provide that service without any extra cost to the taxpayer.”
The brochures available at the centre are a collection of tourism information from communities across Alberta. Draper said they are mainly of interest to residents of St. Albert rather than visitors coming into the city from the outside.
By the end of the year, the city also plans to implement a wayfinding plan that will see “a couple hundred signs” posted around St. Albert to help residents and visitors find their way to attractions and sites of interest, said Guy Boston, head of economic development in St. Albert.
Boston added that tourism development is part of his economic work plan and the city will continue to look into its tourism approach.
Whether businesses will lose money without the tourism centre at the gates to St. Albert remains a hot topic for debate.
“That’s an overstatement of how many people are there that actually look for (visitor information),” Draper said.
“Yes, provinces may have very large tourism information centres at the exit of a highway but it’s not as prevalent at a town or city level.”