Tourist centre open for business
Chamber takes over city's role as info centre
Thursday, Jul 24, 2014 06:30 pm
Visitor centre hours
Friday: 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday and holidays: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
St. Albert’s new visitor information centre is now officially open for business.
Visitors are pouring into the St. Albert & District Chamber of Commerce’s new visitor welcome centre in the small office next to Superstore just off St. Albert Trail.
Chamber president Lynda Moffat says the centre actually opened back in May, but didn’t put up its new sign until this week.
Open seven days a week during the summer, the centre features racks of pamphlets on local and Alberta attractions, a computer with free Wi-Fi access, and staff who are well-versed on all local businesses, events and attractions. They also have a booth at the St. Albert Farmers’ Market.
Moffat estimates that the centre has received hundreds of guests so far this summer, some of whom hailed from China and Europe.
The city’s economic development department used to share this building with the chamber and had staff on hand to tell tourists about the city, said Joan Barber, the city’s business retention and expansion manager.
That changed when the department moved to its new digs across the street from Grandin Park Plaza last year, she continued. Since staff didn’t have the necessary space to provide tourist information in the new office, they set up a rack of pamphlets at St. Albert Place instead.
“It was much more self-service than full-service,” she said.
But that didn’t stop tourists from flooding into the old St. Albert Trail location looking for information, Moffat said.
“People would come in here looking for information and we didn’t have any here.”
The chamber lobbied council and cut a deal that saw the business group take over the job of welcoming tourists to town at the centre. The city will now pay the chamber $30,000 a year for up to three years for the work, in addition to about $10,000 for initial setup costs.
Barber said this is a pilot project, and noted that the city will get statistics on the visitor centre’s first few months of operation this August.
“It’s a good location for people to come in,” Barber said, and – unlike the old economic development office – it’s open on the weekends.
The chamber hopes to get tourists talking about St. Albert and spending their money here instead of places like West Edmonton Mall, Moffat said.
Open seven days a week during the summer, the centre will switch to reduced hours and weekdays only come September, Moffat said. The chamber also hopes to have its tour guides at future local events.