By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on December 30, 2023.
2023 was filled with highlights for Tourism Lethbridge, says CEO Erin Crane, especially the outcomes from four advisory committees which have helped streamline that organization and highlight priorities the organization took on during 2023.
Crane says the four advisory committees for sporting events, business events, attraction and Indigenous tourism, were formed in 2022 but 2023 was the first full year they worked on projects.
“This is really nice because we like to be community-led. We’re here to support the community so understanding what they need from us and putting those plans into place to make them happen is really important, and they (committees) were really instrumental on some of those key things,” said Crane.
She said some strategies the committees have helped with include the agri-food strategy and Indigenous tourism strategies for 2024.
Â “All of them are helping us do that work, as well. They all do specific things for their specific categories, but this is our sounding board of the community. When we start to put on a project these are the people that we’re going to ask what they think about it,” said Crane.
Â She said sometimes not everybody is in agreement, but that helps Tourism Lethbridge better about where they are going, and therefore it has been great to have them.
Â “We did just win the Canadian tourism award for the culinary tourism experience that we put on, which is Canada’s food tours, and that project wouldn’t have been possible without everyone around those tables because they all contributed to it,” said Crane.
Â She said that was the organization’s third award of 2023 – they also won two international awards for a sport tourism virtual reality video was created to highlight all of the city’s sport venues.
In terms of the tourism impact on Lethbridge in 2023, Crane said the final numbers won’t be ready until early in 2024 but they had data from the first six months of 2023 which estimated the economic impact at that point was $6,183,901, with an estimated number of visitors to leisure events (not including Whoop-Up Days) of 10,049. There were also an estimated 10,301 people attending sporting events while business events attracted 2,69 people.
“We always see good economic impact. Especially considering the funding that goes into tourism in our city, the economic return on that is fantastic. We do gauge economic impact year over year, and I’m just going to warn everybody now that we haven’t seen those major events this year that we saw in 2022 like the Tim Horton’s Brier or the Alberta Treaty Hockey Provincials,” said Crane.
Â She explains based on that, the total economic impact for 2023 is expected to be lower than 2022.
When it comes to attracting international visitors to Lethbridge, Crane credits the reach some local organizations have to make that possible, including both post-secondary institutions which bring international visitors and resources.
“Our major employers in the community, when you think about the global reach that some of those have – especially when we’re looking at food manufacturing and processing and alternative energy, a lot of those businesses have offices worldwide so they do bring in a lot of those international travellers, and I think this is the real opportunity for Lethbridge,” said Crane.
She said one things they are looking at for 2024 and beyond, is how to capture more of those international travellers because they are very high value and that type of visitor helps to increase the local economic impact.
“We’ve got new sights set on things for 2024-2025. A lot of that is about economic impact. A lot of what we do is to help the tourism providers around our community to grow and as long as that’s happening, and we’re hearing from them that they’re happy with the work that we’re doing and the direction that we’re going, that is the big difference. And we encourage everyone who wants a voice to consider sitting on one of our advisory committees as that’s exactly what they do,” said Crane. Â
She said Tourism Lethbridge’s focus is on continuing to promote what they have now and slowly grow it over time.
Â “We have some really exciting stuff planned for 2024. We did receive some funding from the provincial government to do market readiness work with the tourism industry, as we’ve been highlighted as a stop on the destination Canada’s prairies to Pacific corridor work that they are doing. So we want to make sure that as the federal government starts to promote us more, that our businesses here are ready to take on all of that,” said Crane.
Â She said some readiness includes making sure they have websites, sufficient parking, signage, bathrooms and everything else that visitors require.
Â “We’re really excited to be working with some fantastic partners on that and it will most likely launch in January,” said Crane.
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