Irricana developing tourism strategy

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Tourism will be a focus for the Town of Irricana as it works with the Calgary Regional Partnership (CRP) to bring forward a three- to five-year tourism action plan.

The recommendations, which included a $3,000 budget to tackle small projects, was put forth at the April 16 regular meeting.

Bob Miller, economic prosperity lead with CRP, said the tourism assessment team worked with tourism partners in the region to create a unique “small-town Alberta” tourism strategy.

“Tourism planning in small-town Alberta has been pretty tired lately,” he said. “They’re struggling to get people to come out to spend money and see the neat things that are out there.

“What we wanted to do was try a different approach.”

A key message of the strategy, he said, is about celebrating Irricana and implementing interesting and engaging mechanisms for telling the 100-year history of the town.

He added, those same mechanisms can also be used to inform tourists, businesses and future residents what direction Irricana is heading in.

“It’s not a magical technical analysis where somebody cranks a bunch of numbers and here’s your answer,” Miller said. “It’s very much about telling stories.”

He said strong partnerships will be essential to growing tourism.

Miller added, industry organizations like the Canadian Badlands, Travel Alberta, Alberta Cultural Tourism, Community Futures Wild Rose and Tourism Calgary want Irricana to succeed simply for the shared benefit that comes with it.

“People come to a region and stay for five days,” he said. “Tourists are looking for day-trip opportunities.”

To get serious about tourism, Miller said Irricana would need to target a items in its capital budget to be fixed each year.

He said setting aside some of the operational budget for staff to have money to spend on tourism when needed is also essential.

Mayor Dennis Tracz, who said he was the biggest skeptic in the room 14 months ago when presented with the idea of a tourism assessment team, was pleased with the presentation and the direction Irricana could take to promote tourism.

“I think they’ve done an amazing job in terms of the approach,” Tracz said.

Irricana will continue its work with CPR on a three- to five-year action plan through a reestablished economic development and tourism committee. The Town is asking interested residents to volunteer.

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