Tourism deal makes sense
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 25, 2013 06:00 am
The latest instalment in the tourism stalemate between the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce and the City of St. Albert illustrates that the system is broken and that a change is in order.
Last week the chamber of commerce made another pitch to city council for a partnership that would see the chamber deliver tourism information from its headquarters at the southern edge of the city. The catch is that the chamber wants the city to pay an estimated $40,000 a year to make it happen.
The chamberís concept includes hiring staff to open a welcome centre that would be open evenings and weekends.
Since January, when the cityís economic development branch moved out of the building it used to share with the chamber, tourism brochures and information have been available at city hall, a place thatís tucked away downtown. Meanwhile, tourists continue to seek information at the chamber of commerce building near Superstore. This summer the chamber was turning away 400 people a week, by the estimation of chamber CEO Lynda Moffat. And you know those people arenít going home and extolling the virtues of Albertaís Botanic Arts City.
Led by the zeal of Mayor Nolan Crouse, the city has been relentless in its advancement of its Botanic Arts brand since adopting the concept three years ago. This brand was always billed as a mechanism for bringing more visitor dollars to St. Albert. But with its stubborn denial of common sense as it relates to tourism, city hall is making it more difficult for visitors to get the information they seek, thereby undermining the very brand that itís worked so hard to nurture. Former chamber president Joe Becigneul encapsulated the issue in his address to council, when he asked ď Ö why are we making it so complicated for tourists to get information?Ē
Even with the rise of wireless apps, thereís still a demand for traditional media like brochures and face-to-face contact, especially among the older demographic thatís most likely to be attracted by St. Albertís botanic arts theme. It makes much more sense to disperse such information from the first building visitors see when they arrive from the south. And, as Moffat pointed out, itís quite common for chambers of commerce to provide visitor information services.
So how do we make it happen here? The chamberís previous suggestion of using volunteer staff is worth exploring. Hereís another one: since chamber members stand to benefit from increased tourism, why shouldnít the chamber bear at least part of the cost of delivering information to tourists?
There are questions surrounding this issue but what is perfectly clear is that something has to change. After this election business is settled, it will be time for the two sides to work out a deal in time for the next tourist season.