Chamber seeks to partner with city on tourism
Visitors and residents seeking information not being well-served, business group asserts
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 18, 2013 06:00 am
The St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce is proposing a partnership with the city to provide tourist information.
Lynda Moffat, the chamber president and CEO, presented to council on Monday night, suggesting the city contract the chamber to provide visitor information services. This isn’t the first time the chamber has made such a suggestion, proposing the same earlier this year after the city’s economic development branch moved out of the St. Albert Business and Visitor Centre.
“The St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce is very willing to enter into a service agreement with the City of St. Albert to provide tourist information,” Moffat told council. She said hundreds of visitors and residents have made their way through the doors to the chamber’s offices, asking for tourism information.
“They seem to be confused and disappointed that they have no place to go, and they are not interested in just picking up brochures,” Moffat said.
Her proposal was to have the city give funds so the chamber could hire staff to open a welcome centre during summer months, including evenings and weekends. She also suggested there be two locations for services – the chamber building and the farmers’ market, and noted the chamber building, which is at the southern border of St. Albert just north of Anthony Henday Drive, is perfectly located for a visitor information centre.
Moffat, responding to inquiries from council, estimated the agreement would cost the city about $40,000 a year, with materials extra. She estimated about 400 people come in a week looking for information.
“Before a long weekend it’s craziness,” she said. “We put up with a lot of angry people.”
In response to Coun. Malcolm Parker, Moffat figured the split between people looking for information is about half-and-half locals and tourists Often people are rude when told they have no information and don’t want to go downtown to pick up the brochures available at St. Albert Place, she said.
Coun. Len Bracko wanted to know if they’d use volunteers, and Moffat said they’d want to incorporate some.
Joe Becigneul also presented to council in support of the chamber’s idea. He said he was at the building for about 20 minutes in June and watched eight different people come in looking for help, some of them in pairs, during that time.
“My main question is why are we making it so complicated for tourists to get information?” he asked.
After the presentations Coun. Cam MacKay asked for a brief history of the tourism information centre. City manager Patrick Draper said the chamber had previously made a similar suggestion but the money wasn’t in the budget.
Draper noted the distribution of brochures, which are located on the main floor of St. Albert Place, has increased about 50 per cent. He said some city staff who work on the main floor have been given some training to provide assistance, and the library staff also help out.
There has been some talk about putting the brochures in a second location like Servus Place, Draper said.
Coun. Cathy Heron asked about the planned wayfinding signs that are meant to help visitors locate points of interest, and Draper said that project is moving forward.
Mayor Nolan Crouse said about a decade a go there was significant work done by a tourism committee but no policy ever came of the effort. “That’s a fault,” Crouse said. In absence of a tourism policy, he said “we got what we got.”
The mayor asked Draper if a tourism policy was being worked on by staff at all and heard there isn’t one at this time. Crouse suggested the next council might want to pursue the matter of a tourism policy.
No motions addressing the chamber’s proposal were made during the public portion of the meeting.