Mayor’s corner: Supporting economic development

Tyler Warman
Mayor of Slave Lake

One of the things we heard loud and clear during the election is we all want growth. One area of growth we all want to see is in our economy, we want people to keep coming to the Slave Lake Region and spend money in the community.
For the last several months the Tri-Council has been focused on growing tourism in the region, and we all believe that it is greatest area of opportunity for potential growth.
With that said, we have come up with a few ideas to start working on tourism in the Slave Lake Region.
Before we can effectively launch a tourism strategy in the region we must decide who will be involved in helping grow and promote the region. We have engaged with a number of business owners and citizens to put together a solid foundation. We believe the best group to grow tourism, is the tourism operators themselves. The belief is to put together a group of people who are passionate about the tourism industry, and support them as they help grow the economy in our region. In order to successfully do this, we had to set up a legal society, which we had to get approved by the provincial government before it officially took shape.
After some months of working towards this goal, we finally were told that we had been incorporated and we have set our first board meeting for November 6th. The first order of business at the first annual general meeting on November 6th, will be to elect a board of directors who will become the executive body for the tourism society in the Slave Lake Region.
Once the new board is in place, talks will turn to a meeting schedule, and how membership in the new society will be decided. Discussions will also include funding of the new board, marketing and promotion of the region, and growth in the tourism sector in the Slave Lake Region.
While we were waiting for the province to approve the new society, preliminary work had gotten underway. We have created a new tourism map for the area, we have secured funds and hired a contractor who will work on a tourism guide for the area, and our economic development group took over operations of the Visitor Information Centre where we made some major improvements.
If you haven’t been to the Visitor Information Centre in the last few months, I will let you know what we have done. We added some visual equipment so visitors can get an appreciation for what the region has to offer and we approached local businesses, and local artisans to display their crafts, hobbies, and products at the Visitor Information Centre. There was also a need to update materials to promote the communities throughout the region, so we developed a more user-friendly and updated regional map.
These maps are not only at the Visitor Information Centre, but throughout the region at local businesses where they can be seen by tourists. We heard very positive feedback from business owners and tourists who have used the new updated maps.
One ongoing project that we are diligently working on, and the new society will work on when formed, is making the Visitor Information Centre a destination for not only tourists but residents of the region as well. We began working with the local FireSmart Committee to build a trail system west of the Visitor Information Centre.
While on the topic of tourism, our town council has been, in recent months, lobbying for some additional investments in our local beaches. We have been in talks with Alberta Environment and Parks to enhance the user experience at our local beaches.
Council is supporting the creation and development of a destination marketing fund with local hotel operators, the funds could potentially be used for the promotion and marketing of the region.
Earlier this year, we were able to secure grant funding for data collection. We hired tourism counsellors to collect data over the summer from tourists who came to the Slave Lake Region. We now have a better idea of who our tourists are, why they choose the Slave Lake Region to vacation, and how long people are coming for. This will make it much easier for our new tourism society and council to understand where to focus our marketing, and it will ensure that we get a better bang for our buck.
We understand all of this is just a start to a better tourism strategy for the region. We are trying to build a strong foundation, so when the momentum starts to come, we are equipped to manage it, and make it sustainable.
Tourism is a huge project, but we all understand that it is also a huge opportunity that needs to be tapped into. So, how do we ensure this gets that solid foundation? We want people who want to help create and shape this vision. That being said, if you can spare an hour or two once a month, and have a passion for tourism in the region, come to the first annual general meeting on November 6th at the Town council chambers, the meeting starts at 5:00 p.m.
Help us make this region a destination and come help plan for its future!

 

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