Tourism has a big impact on Sylvan Lake.
But just how big?
That’s what the town plans to find out.
Working in partnership with Alberta Tourism Parks and Recreation — which will split the $60,000 cost — a Tourism Economic Impact Assessment will be undertaken this summer.
Starting in June, visitors will be surveyed on their spending habits, where they plunked down their cash, and other useful information to create a picture of what the million or so visitors each year mean to the local economy.
Even the number of visitors the town receives is uncertain.
The latest figures were based on a 2006 estimate and much has happened since then in the lakeside community, not the least of which is a major upgrade of the lakeshore area.
“We’re really trying to figure out where we’re at now,” said Vicki Kurz, the town’s economic development officer.
Once the data has been collected, it will be run through an economic impact model used by the province to churn out solid numbers.
Sylvan Lake was chosen for provincial funding because it was identified by the province as one of the top four rural desired destinations outside the two major cities and mountain destinations Banff and Jasper.
The other three are Drumheller, Camrose and Canmore.
Results of Sylvan Lake’s assessment are expected to go to council in October.
The project follows another initiative that saw a five-minute video produced and posted on the town’s website about tourism impacts.
Various community and business members share their thoughts on what tourism means to the town.
Data gleaned from the assessment will be added to the video later in the year.
The video is not meant as a promotional advertisement for outsiders, said Kurz.
What is intended is to make local residents aware of the role of tourism in the community’s well-being.
If the town is to embark on the tourism strategy it adopted last year, there must be buy-in from residents, she said.
Among the tourism strategies goals:
l Create a dedicated tourism organization;
l Gear planning policies to fostering tourism development;
l Improve parking and boat access;
l Attract new niche businesses to downtown,