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Chamber should run tourism

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  |  Posted: Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 06:00 am

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The city is doing a disservice to economic development in St. Albert by moving its tourist information services to St. Albert Place. It should allow the chamber of commerce to staff that function.

Tourism is a large part of economic development as visiting travellers and people who are new to the city look for information about St. Albert. And having that resource located at the cityís boundary is equally critical. The building is prominent on St. Albert Trail and easily accessible. Expecting people who are new to St. Albert and unfamiliar with the city to navigate their way to St. Albert Place is unrealistic. We have to be able to put the product in front of them in order to sell our city in the best possible way.

Yes, there would be a cost to offering those services through the chamber, but that cost could be easily off-set by the city. While the province is likely to discontinue the STEP grant program that pays a portion of wages for summer students, the chamberís idea to use volunteers to staff the facility will ensure that costs are kept to a minimum. Our residents are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to where to go in St. Albert, where to eat or what attractions to visit. Drawing on that experience will not only keep costs down but provide expansive knowledge will help ensure our tourists make the most of their time here. And spend their dollars at local businesses as a result.

As president and CEO Lynda Moffat has said, most municipalities in Alberta have information booths and most of them are staffed by the chambers of commerce. It is business that benefits the most from tourism as newcomers visit our sites and use our stores. Consequently the chamber is in the best possible position to provide that information. To simply believe that visitors will just go online to get what they need or will be content to just grab a handful of pamphlets from the lobby of city hall or Servus Credit Union Place is unrealistic. Providing a satisfactory tourist experience means having people on hand who can help.

Even if the city decided to let the chamber take care of tourism, more needs to be done, specifically with adequate signage so that visitors can actually find their way to a tourism booth. A series of signs on Anthony Henday Drive will let people know that there is a tourism service for St. Albert and will make it easy for travellers to find it. The city is close to rolling out a new plan for helping them find their way around St. Albert, but it should include these kinds of signs, which are common in other communities as well.

St. Albert needs tourism dollars, especially when we have so many landmarks and attractions for visitors to enjoy. To do that we need to make sure the information tourists need is easily accessible. Entering into an agreement with the chamber to perform that function is money worth spending.


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