Morinville – From its office on 100 Avenue, a building that doubles as a tourism information facility, the Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce (MDCC) is focusing its attentions on tourism in the community and region.
A recent press release put out by the Chamber extolled the virtues of tourist destinations in the region, including Jurassic Forest, Prairie Gardens, the performance series at the Morinville Community Cultural Center, and the various museums and historic attractions in the area. The Chamber sees tourism as a critical economic and cultural component to the community and region, one that impacts taxis, restaurants, shops, hotels and convention centres.
“Tourism is something that enhances our community,” said MDCC President Simon Boersma said. “I think we have to look at our small businesses in our main corridor going downtown. We want to make sure those shops are covered when tourists come in or when they stop in at our Chamber Office that they know there is an ice cream shop down the road. Those are the kind of people that make a certain amount off the locals, but at the same time we want to make sure that they get business from the tourism.”
Boersma said in the early 1970s tourism was one of the major players in the Canadian economy and still accounts for $85 billion in annual revenue in Canada. “Tourism is still a big part of it so we need to make sure that we keep that in the forefront,” he said. “Jurassic Park. Kid’s may go there, and then there is the golfing next door. It brings it into the region. What we find nowadays is that even the local people, we go to West Edmonton Mall, but we have so much to offer right here. You have a lot less mileage and we can shop locally that way.”
The Chamber president believes the business advocacy group can play a role in making the communities it serves more aware of what is available in the region for people to see and do, opportunities to make day trips throughout the Sturgeon County region and beyond. It is seen as a pay-it-forward type proposition whereby business comes back to Morinville as people drive through visiting various destination points in the region or visiting Morinville’s own.
“They say when a dollar comes into a community, [it multiplies] seven times,” Boersma said in explanation of the economic multiplier theory. “The multiplier effect is so well-known. When kids get restless in the car, we hope they’ll pull off. We are an easy pull off point on the highway. We have the big stores – Tim Horton’s kind of thing where people want to stop by. Hopefully they drive through Town, see something, stop and come in.”
Festivals a key component
Boersma said the Chamber wants to make sure local businesses are aware there are tourists and travellers driving through the community that could be potential clientele.
“It’s a great thing for our community,” Boersma said of tourism, adding the festivals have brought people to Morinville. “The Town is now backing them and there is so much more exposure now. Those are the things that bring tourism to our town. Our stores have to be open. Our patrons have to be there to be available for the guests that we have to serve, otherwise they’re going to go away.”
Morinville Festival Society Chair Paul Smith said last year’s St. Jean Baptiste drew crowds estimated at 5,000. The committee believes one third of those were tourists visiting the community.
“The mandate of the festival society is to build tourism in a non-typical tourism town, and to make a model for building community spirit,” Smith said. “We’re thrilled with any developments that happen with tourism and will work closely with anybody that’s got interest in tourism.”
Smith said St. Jean Baptiste Festival has become a proven tourist destination and that his society is only beginning to tap into other events that will eventually have the same drawing power.
History plays a role in tourism
Although drawing fewer tourists annually than Morinville’s premier festival, the Musee Morinville Museum and historic St. Jean Baptiste Park also plays a role in the community’s tourism draw.
Curator Donna Garrett said many seniors groups are able to get out and about in the summer, a situation that has brought more than a few busses to Morinville. “They really enjoy the museum because some of them have Morinville roots,” Garrett said. “It’s kind of reminiscent for them.”
Garrett said the museum’s guest books contains names of visitors from throughout Canada, the United States, and as far away as New Zealand, names of people passing through the community to visit family or for other reasons.
“I think tourism is very important to display Morinville and show what we have in the community and its history,” Garrett said, adding people are genuinely pleased with the facility and its layout. “A lot of people from Morinville [also] come through. They could be going for a walk and see the sign. Some people didn’t even realize the town had a museum.”
Garrett said a question she is often asked by those visiting the museum is what else visitors can do while here. The curator said she has arranged tours of the church and directed people to the interpretive murals and tableaus in St. Jean Baptiste Park, but does not have much else to direct people to beyond that. “Depending on their age, they may want to go for a walk on the walking trails,” she said. “But other than that and going for lunch somewhere, I’m not sure what else there is for them to go tour or look at.” Garret said she would love to see some small boutique and artisan shops developing in the downtown core to act as a tourist draw.
It is a situation the Town and Chamber may be able to work on. Chamber President Boersma said his motto for the year is “Morinville is open for business.” He sees the Chamber’s role as one of supporting, expanding and attracting businesses to the community.
Above: Tourists visit the park area. Above right: Museum curator Donna Garrett looks over the Musee Morinville Museum’s guest book. She has had many tourists and locals drop in over the summer to check out the community’s history. – Stephen Dafoe Photo