Prince Albert Tourism ponders past, future at AGM

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Matt Gardner
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Future plans of the Prince Albert Tourism and Marketing Bureau will depend in large part upon lessons drawn from the past.

Board members, employees and supporters cast an inquisitive eye in both directions on Wednesday as P.A. Tourism held its annual general meeting (AGM) at the local Travelodge.

“Our year really seems to kick off after the AGM with the new board,” executive director Jayne Remenda noted.

Following board elections and a discussion of the group’s finances, Remenda offered her report on the previous year.

The runup to summer in 2013 was a transition period for P.A. Tourism, which saw the loss of two staff members that left the organization somewhat unprepared heading into its peak season.

“We brought back a former summer student to fill the vacancy at visitor services and then hired some new summer staff and tried to hit the ground running,” Remenda said.

Ultimately, she said, P.A. Tourism had a “jam-packed, busy, fantastic summer” that saw its visitor numbers begin to return to previous levels.

“We hadn’t been seeing some of the American visitors for a number of years because of our high dollar and they weren’t coming here to hunt and fish and all of that, and we did start to see some of those folks coming back.”

As opposed to having its summer staff sit around inside, the tourism bureau took a more proactive approach by dispatching seasonal employees into the community.

Remenda said P.A. Tourism was planning to expand the idea of its staff as “ambassadors” and “community cheerleaders” in the future with events similar to the I Love Prince Albert bracelet campaign.

“That was kind of fun,” she recalled. “We were able to garner a bunch of different little prizes from community members and then summer staff would go out into the community and try to catch people wearing the bracelet and then award them with the prize.

“So we might like to continue with something like that. That went very well.”

Officially kicking off its summer in June with the Tourism Week barbecue, the season saw some high-profile events such as a satellite Pro-Am event of the Dakota Dunes Open PGA Tour Canada in July.

With 18 professional golfers coming down for the day at Cooke Municipal Golf Course, Remenda described the event -- which she hoped would be the first of many -- as “really well done” and noted the pros were extremely happy with the results.

“I had a heck of a time getting the 18 of them on the bus, because I was committed to have them back in Saskatoon by a certain time and there were a couple that didn’t want to go,” she said with a chuckle.

The annual Riverbank Gala rounded out the summer, after which the next major event was a Christmas open house that considerably boosted foot traffic at the Visitor Centre.

Visitor services co-ordinator Kristin Berenbaum underlined the importance of the open house during the winter months.

“The summer’s our peak season and the winter slows down, but if you were to look at the months broken down … December’s actually kind of high for the winter,” she said.

“The reason for that, I think, is because we do do our Christmas open house, so we’re personally in-house promoting Prince Albert tourism and bringing people through our door … That does make a difference in the numbers that we’re seeing.

Our year really seems to kick off after the AGM with the new board. Jayne Remenda

“More importantly, the numbers might seem minimal, but the people coming in will often tell us, ‘Well, we didn’t know you were open in the winter’ … It gets them in there so that we can then talk to them and promote our centre and the city.”

Discussing gift shop sales, Berenbaum noted that fishing licenses constituted a large portion of revenue during the summer months.

She went on to discuss plans to expand the gift shop by offering more products specifically highlighting Prince Albert, as well as potential partnerships with businesses such as Saskatoon-based Sara Lua Designs.

Marketing was the focus of the next report, offered by P.A. Tourism marketing, sales and communications co-ordinator Amber Pratt.

Recounting her experiences since joining the organization in December, Pratt noted that she initially focused on getting to know their current marketing partners and what their previous experiences had been like with P.A. Tourism.

“What I found is most of them were positive and most people wanted to continue to be partners with us, because they understood what the value was of being a partner and they wanted to continue to support the tourism industry,” Pratt said.

On the other hand, while Prince Albert Tourism has a goal of 100 marketing partners, it currently has only 42 confirmed members and more than 20 businesses who have expressed interest.

Explaining the gap between present numbers and stated goals, Pratt referred to her meetings with businesses and organizations in the city and found that many potential partners did not know what P.A. Tourism had to offer, while others did not see the value in a partnership.

She drew two conclusions from these findings.

“The majority of businesses in Prince Albert don’t know that we offer a marketing partnership, and that’s because we’re not telling them effectively,” Pratt said. “And then it’s also that they don’t see the value because we’re not showing it to them.”

In order to move forward in attracting more marketing partners, she said, P.A. Tourism would need to establish a presence, deliver value and offer proof of performance.

Social media is expected to play a key role in those future marketing efforts, with Pratt outlining four goals -- increasing awareness of the tourism bureau and marketing partners, getting people talking about Prince Albert, helping people discover what the city has to offer and bringing them here to experience the destination.

She pointed to the Fall In Love With Prince Albert contest held near Valentine’s Day as an example of a campaign that successfully used social media.

Following Pratt’s report, the AGM concluded with words from chair Mona Selanders before adjourning for the evening.

Organizations: P.A. Tourism, Prince Albert, AGM Travelodge Tourism Week Dakota Dunes Open PGA Tour Canada Visitor Centre Sara Lua Designs

Geographic location: Saskatoon

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