By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – The province is sending $70,000 the Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce way, grant money from the government’s Department of Tourism, Parks and Recreation that the local business group will use to fund a Regional Tourism Action Plan (RTAP).
Chamber President Sheldon Fingler said he was pleased but not surprised to receive the funding announcement from Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock MLA Ken Kowalski last week.
“We put a lot of work into going after the grant to make sure that we would have a very good opportunity at it,” Fingler said. “We’re quite happy.”
Now that the money is coming, Fingler said it will be put to use in furthering the organization’s goals in creative ways.
“Our goal with the Chamber of Commerce is to find new and innovative ways of bringing more people to our community and district,” he said. “And [by] working with the region in creating a tourism action plan for the entire region, we hope to be able to get more of a marketing game plan in order to bring our region more onto the map so that people have a reason to come out and join us.”
The Chamber president said he is looking to extend a hand to the other municipalities’ chambers to work together for the mutual benefit of the region.
Fingler explained that to make sure that his organization does what is best for the entire region; the plan will start with a blank slate, void of any pre-conceived notions as to what form the action plan would take. Tenders have been sent out to marketing consultants to help facilitate the plan process, which Fingler anticipates will take approximately three to six months to complete.
“It’s a very open book approach, and very new and fresh,” Fingler said. “I know there’s been a lot of things discussed in the past, there’s a lot of things have gone up and down throughout the years, but no one’s taken a real regional group approach to it. So we’re hoping that by taking this new approach and working with the municipalities with a fresh clean slate, that we’ll have an opportunity to do something good.”
The Chamber president said the business community benefits when tourists come to town, citing this past weekend’s Tour de l’Alberta, which brought hundreds of cyclists to Morinville.
“When you bring 1,100 riders and families and friends, you’re probably broaching 2,000 people,” Fingler said, adding that riders asked him throughout the day about local places to eat. “Those people came into town for one thing, but they all supported our local businesses. And hopefully by creating an action plan, we can have a more steady draw of people into our community and new ways of bringing people in that we haven’t thought of maybe yet.”
Although the Chamber is not limiting their methods of bringing tourists to the region; neither are they limiting the possibilities of where those tourists may be drawn from. Fingler said he has heard of a growing trend in Europe towards agritourism, where tourists pay to take a holiday on a farm where they work and learn about agriculture.
“Because we’ve got such a huge area around us of farming communities, it’s certainly one of the things that could possibly, be looked at,” Fingler said. “I don’t want to limit us to just thinking within the box. I sort of like to think of blowing up the box.”
The Chamber of Commerce is hoping to have a consultant selected and the project started within the next month.