(Advocate file photo.)

Tourism-boosting strategy approved for Red Deer

City to partner with Tourism Red Deer and surrounding regions to increase visitors

After the Canadian Finals Rodeo, World Junior Hockey Championship and the 2019 Canada Winter Games, what other major tourism-drawing events are in store for Red Deer?

City council approved a joint venture strategy on Monday that will see the City of Red Deer partnering with Tourism Red Deer and other regional entities to increase visitors to the city and surrounding area.

Boosting tourism will help to diversify the local economy, which is important during this slow-down in the province’s oil industry, said Tara Lodewyk, the city’s planning director who oversees land and economic development.

“Red Deer has amazing sporting venues, as we saw during the Canada Winter Games, when we hit it out of the park,” said Lodewyk.

But as city and tourism officials begin scoping out other national and international sporting events to bid on, they will be keeping an eye out for smaller cultural, culinary and outdoor recreational event opportunities.

A consultant identified these three types of events as being “focus areas” in which Red Deer‘s tourism can grow and the city can “shine,” added Lodewyk. Niche events, such as a food or craft beer festival, could also help brand the city as more of a tourism destination.

”We want Red Deer to be on the map for every reason, not just sports tourism,” said Coun. Lawrence Lee. While a competitive environment exists for events-based tourism, Lee feels Red Deer will continue to benefit from being within two hours reach of 80 per cent of Alberta’s population.

The tourism strategy passed unanimously by council and previously adopted by Tourism Red Deer will be in place until 2022. It states the aim of creating a “unique, must-experience destination offering visitors authentic, affordable, and sustainable experiences year round.”

Strengthening “market readiness“ to attract more events to Red Deer includes developing a bid committee and a major events strategy. Policies for both are to be developed by next June.

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer affirmed the importance of working with regional representatives on tourism steering committees. She said visitors to the city do not recognize boundaries between the city and the county, but come to experience the region as a whole.

Red Deerians can take part in focus groups this fall to provide input into the Red Deer area’s tourism plan.

J.P. Fortin, chair of Tourism Red Deer, called the joint strategy “a good step forward in building tourism in the region.”


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