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Friday, 05 May 2017 04:38

Tourism Swift Current looking ahead to a positive year at annual meeting

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Tourism Swift Current Executive Director Lee Friesen speaks at the organization's annual general meeting, April 27. Tourism Swift Current Executive Director Lee Friesen speaks at the organization's annual general meeting, April 27.

Members of Tourism Swift Current reflected on the past year and the opportunities to attract visitors to the region during 2017 at the organization’s annual general meeting, April 27.

The meeting took place at the Living Sky Casino event centre before the start of Tourism Swift Current's 7th annual 49° x 110° Spring Conference.
According to Tourism Swift Current Executive Director Lee Friesen, there were some challenges during the past year, but he is expecting 2017 to be a positive year.
“We’ve seen a soft economy and you don’t have the results that you may have had previous years, but that’s where your partnerships do come in and that is also where it is important to continue to work as partners,” he said after the meeting. “We work with Tourism Saskatchewan, we work with the Swift Current Association of Hotels and we work with our members representing Tourism Swift Current.”
These partnerships make it possible to find commonalities and to continue to promote the industry.
“You’re looking for ways that you can not only continue to work together, but to grow the industry,” he said. “This past year has presented some challenges, but I do believe we are actually looking at a very strong year and we look forward to 2017 and all that it brings.”
He noted the 2017 Living Sky Casino Pow Wow, which took place Feb. 18-19, was the largest one ever to take place in Swift Current.
“This is really due to the efforts of Trevor Marion from the start and working with his staff, working with Tourism Swift Current, the Swift Current Association of Hotels and with Tourism Saskatchewan,” Friesen said. “We were able to put together a package that allowed us to promote the event more than we have, to provide funding support, and ultimately I believe this is going to be one of our largest events.”
A notable event during 2016 was the inaugural hosting of the Canadian Cowboy Association (CCA) Finals Rodeo in Swift Current in the fall. This was the result of a five-year agreement between the partners to have the event in the city.
“It is part of bringing events to Swift Current and events that will attract people not only to our city, but attract people from the region and across the province,” he said. “I’m really excited about seeing CCA Finals Rodeo return this year and I believe we can and will build on last year’s success — which was a success — but we believe it can and will be larger.”
The key focus of Tourism Swift Current’s activities is the promotion of different events in the area. The emphasis on events is part of a provincial strategy and successful events require effective partnerships.
“Tourism Saskatchewan has been working on developing an event strategy and that’s where your partnerships come in, because working with hotels you’re seeking support for those events and that’s part of your role as an organization representing Tourism Swift Current,” he said.
Annual visitor spending in the Swift Current area now exceeds $39 million and the Canada 150 celebrations during 2017 will provide an opportunity to attract additional people to the region. Friesen believes the region can benefit from a growing interest in Canada as a place to visit.
Recent Statistics Canada numbers indicate there were almost 20 million inbound visitors to Canada in 2016, which was a 14-year high. Lonely Planet’s latest travel guide rated Canada as the top travel destination for 2017.
“With Canada 150 we expect that people will be exploring their country more than they have, we expect people will be exploring their province, we expect people will be exploring their backyard,” he said. “So we have an opportunity to not only bring people to our community and to our region and our province through the normal marketing efforts that we do, but we also have an opportunity to capture a visitor that may be visiting us for the first time, not only our region, but our province and our country.”
The Tourism Swift Current website attracted 50,000 visitors during the past year. The website has been upgraded to be more web responsive and mobile friendly. He therefore expects the number of visitors to the new website will grow along with the trend towards greater use of social media.
“We’ve always felt that website components are a strong part of what you do,” he said. “We’ll still continue to print our visitor maps and guides, but we see so many trends and growth moving more towards online. … It’s become standard to upgrade your site not just every five years, but it’s a continual process. You’re continually evolving and with the pace of everything that moving, you have to move with it.”
There was a special presentation during the meeting to long-time Tourism Swift Current board member Agatha Dyck, who retired from the board at that meeting after serving a total of 12 years.
The meeting also elected a new board of directors for 2017-18. They are: Helen Arnold (Swift Current Allied Arts Council), Lenora Bells (Swift Current Ag & Ex), Tim Bugera (Swift Current Mall), Doug Evjen (SaskTel), Phil Krahn (appointed by Swift Current Association of Hotels), Trevor Marion (Living Sky Casino), John Parker (Community Futures Southwest), Alda Spanier (Century 21), Ron Toles (appointed by City of Swift Current), and Clayton Wicks (appointed by Swift Current & District Chamber of Commerce).

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Matthew Liebenberg