Destination Hat: tourism on the rise

By COLLIN GALLANT on March 19, 2019.

NEWS FILE PHOTO
Jace Anderson, the head of the City of Medicine Hat’s tourism provider, told city council at its Monday, March 18, 2019 meeting that that tourism is up in Medicine Hat, according to the 2018 report.

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Tourism figures are pointed up in Medicine Hat, and the head of the city’s tourism provider says that should continue as it enters a new four-year contract.

Jace Anderson told council while presenting the 2018 annual report of the Destination Marketing Organization that the group has essentially doubled its budget through revenue and partnerships, and general trends are positive.

“We’re very excited to have a new four-year contract to represent the city,” said Anderson. “We’re leveraging our dollars well and … encouragingly and cautiously optimistic about 2019. There are considerable ongoing trends that we’re seeing.”

That includes continuation of food and brewery tours, a developing partnership with the Miywasin Centre to bring tours to the Saamis Tepee and other Indigenous sites in the city, and work with the newly formed sports and events council.

Coun. Brian Varga is a member of the council that seeks out tournament hosting opportunities.

“Sometimes we forget how much money comes in when we host tournaments and have people stay over night,” said Varga. “(The DMO) goes above and beyond what we’ve expected.”


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The group’s city contract in 2018 was worth $390,000, but that grew to $803,000 thanks to a contract to run the Alberta Tourism visitor’s centre in Walsh, a partnership with APEX for marketing support, advertising revenue from tourism guides and other sources.

The report states that overnight occupancy from referrals to either hotels or campgrounds were also up by about 100 to 750.

Visits to the visitors information centre also rose by 2 per cent in 2018, to 22,000. Visitors from 42 U.S. states checked in at the centre, near the College Avenue overpass, but about 85 per cent of all the city’s visitors were from other areas of Alberta.

Anderson said that is standard for most of Alberta outside international tourism destinations Jasper and Banff.

That said, historic sites and provincial parks – like Medalta and the Cypress Hills – are draws for travellers, and Medicine Hat has focused on offering “outdoor experiences” such as camping and sports, and emerging culture, such as culinary tours.

Riverside hearing halted

A public hearing into a city-led effort to rezone the former Riverside School site was paused on Monday after a last-minute written submission from the owner asked for more time.

A law firm representing Covenant Care requested the motion be postponed until April 15 by which time the owner hopes to meet with administrators about the site.

The bylaw would change the zoning for the school and playground — which closed in June 2017 – to direct control of council from public services zone. Covenant bought the site for $850,000 with general plans for a senior’s living facility, a discretionary use in the current zoning.

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