With tourism hit hard globally by the COVID-19 pandemic, work is underway to help see that Saskatoon’s visitor economy rebounds.
The city was selected as a staging area after the Tourism Industry Association of Canada launched a national initiative with a workshop series to reflect the new landscape for most operators.
Tourism Saskatoon president and CEO Todd Brandt hopes the partnership sets the city and the province apart from other destinations.
“We came into 2020 as an industry flying very high. We had a great 2019 well into 2020 and then the challenge of a pandemic drove tourism to the lowest level, I think, it’s ever been. Not only in the city, in this province, but globally as well,” Brandt said on Thursday.
“But, the recovery is underway. Competition for the traveller dollars coming out of this is going to be fierce… we’ve got to come out of this better than we were going into it.”
“This is a province-wide effort so we have and will continue to engage people from border to border order on this… We love being a host destination but it really is an opportunity for the whole province.”
Two workshops in partnership with the Culinary Tourism Alliance and Twenty31 Consulting are intended to provide businesses with developing strategies to develop culinary experiences as well as winter and shoulder season.
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Greg Klassen, president and CEO of Twenty31 Consulting, said the key with the shoulder season is really about starting a little bit earlier than the summer and rolling into the fall.
“We can improve the seasonality of our tourism product and then we can move some of our visitors that go to all of those other great places in Canada and move them into places, like Saskatoon, so that we can collectively, as a nation, help distribute those visitors a little bit more equitably,” Klassen said.
“Also to help understand what maybe some of the barriers are to developing more winter and shoulder season tourism experiences.”
Stephanie Clovechok, the vice-president and director of innovation at Tourism Saskatoon, said there’s going to be some “incredible” experiences that come out of the workshops.
“Things like brewery tours or guided food tours or a sunset dinner on the open Prairie or things like an interpretive Northern Light viewing experience around a campfire with an Indigenous elder telling stories.”
“Those are all things that people from around the world are so excited to come and experience here in Saskatoon. And at this time, now is our chance to inspire people of our own city to get out into our own backyards and have those same experiences.”
Tourism Saskatoon hopes the work create a global reputation that inspires travel to Saskatoon once the time is right.
“With respect to the way that people can travel right now, our focus is on our local community and very hyper-locally. So within the borders of Saskatchewan, we know that those are going to be the people who can travel the most,” Clovechok said.
“What we do know is that to increase visitation to our city, we have to increase the critical mass of experiences that we have to offer. So the more things that we have to do, the more opportunity we have to inspire visitation to our city.”
The virtual workshops are expected to take place mid-August.
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