Fresh from a hectic February, Prince Albert Tourism is already looking to the future.
© Herald file photo
A city sign welcomes visitors into Prince Albert.
With more athletic events planned for the spring and summer, the organization is busily planning how to accommodate successive waves of visitors.
“We try to plan a year or two in advance,” executive director Jayne Remenda said.
“For example, the Sask Winter Games and the First Nation Winter Games, the bids on those events started three years ago and the committees have been working on them ever since … so we’re always quite a bit ahead of the game in the planning.”
In what may have been one of the busiest Februaries in memory for the city, the Prince Albert 2014 Saskatchewan Games attracted the lion’s share of attention.
Even as Remenda estimated a $2.5 million economic boost to the community from the games, she described them as a triumph for the city from a marketing perspective.
“I think it was probably more successful than we expected, but we don’t have the actual numbers yet,” she said.
“We attracted people to the community that may not have normally come here, especially in the wintertime,” she added. “We got to show them the best of the best, and so we’re hoping that that burnt a little bit of desire in their memory and that they would like to return for other events or other reasons.”
The range of local events competing for attention in the period after mid-February was formidable.
Aside from the games, residents and tourists alike had sled dog races, concerts (most notably a performance by Bryan Adams) and the Prince Albert Winter Festival as potential entertainment options.
Remenda acknowledged that it would have been preferable to have the different events alternate, given limited accommodation space and the amount of volunteers required for each, but pointed to a rare set of circumstances.
“This was very unique, because we do know that the winter festival always happens during that school break period,” Remenda said. “The games have to happen during school break because the athletes need to be out of class in order to attend.
“Now with that said, provincial games typically only come around to your community once every 10 years, so it was just a matter of … ‘OK, we know these are going to be happening in tandem, so how can we work together to make the best of it?’ But typically we would not try to host three or four major events all within a one-week time frame.”
Hotel rooms were scarce at the peak of activity, with two local hotels reporting having to turn people away -- a situation Remenda noted Prince Albert residents may be less accustomed to than visitors to larger cities such as Saskatoon, who typically book rooms at least one month in advance.
She encouraged organizers of future events to contact P.A. Tourism, or even post the events themselves on the P.A. Tourism website.
“We look at ourselves as a bit of a clearing house of information, but we’re only as good as the information people give us,” Remenda said. “So the more people tell us, the better we can communicate to everyone what is having and assist them in their plans.”
As the tourism office looks to the future, athletic events will continue to occupy a great deal of their attention in the leadup to spring and summer.
While the provincial archery championships on April 12-13 will attract an estimated 240 participants, the biggest event set for that month is the 2014 Saskatchewan First Nation Winter Games, which take place from April 20-25 and are expected to have a similar impact to the Saskatchewan Winter Games.
We’re always quite a bit ahead of the game in the planning. Jayne Remenda
“The First Nations Winter Games is going to be huge for the community again, because not only the athletes, but all of the friends and family and spectators and coaches and all those sort of folks coming into the community is going to be a really large impact in a very short time period again,” Remenda said.
Other events include a March seniors’ bowling competition and a May archery contest, the Canada Cup, expected to attract 100 participants.
Come June and July, annual events such as the street fair and kids’ festival will be joined by more major athletic events.
“We are hosting the second annual PGA tour Canada Pro Am again at Cooke Municipal (Golf Course), which is a small event participant-wise because there’s 18 pros and only 18 teams permitted in the event, but it’s a very high-profile event for our community,” Remenda said.
“It puts us on the map right across the whole PGA tour … I know that we were being talked about all the way down in Texas a couple of months ago.”
Another summer sports spectacle is the 2014 Canadian Native Fastball Championships, taking place at James Smith First Nation with 1,500 players attending as well as families, spectators, officials and coaches.
With the summer months traditionally seeing a wave of visitors to the Waskesiu area, Remenda credited the establishment of the P.A. Tourism visitor centre as helping to encourage travellers to stay in Prince Albert en route to their lakeland destinations.
“If the visitor centre wasn’t here, there would be no point of interception,” she said. “They would just continue on.
“But because we have the visitor centre, they stop for various reasons -- for information, for maps, to use the washroom or to stop and picnic at the picnic tables outside, and it gives us a chance to promote our community and to welcome them and maybe provide them with some information that they weren’t aware of, if there’s an event happening that day and encouraging them to come back.”
Though Prince Albert attracts visitors from areas such as Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, British Columbia and other territories, the majority of tourists who travel to the community come from within the region.
Examining broader historical trends, Remenda believed that the city had seen something of a rise in visitors in recent years, following a decline after its most recent peak around 2008.
“We definitely saw a drop in the American visitorship to the community,” she said. “In the fall (of 2008) we had a lot of hunting and fishing and that sort of thing. Due to the economy and the Canadian dollar … we saw that change.
“We’ve seen that start to come back a little bit this fall, with a little bit of a rise in the Americans returning … (and) definitely the European market was starting to come back. But again, for Prince Albert, our main traveller is regional and provincial folks.”