NORTH BATTLEFORD - The City of North Battleford has signed on to a new agreement for funding for Destination Battlefords, a major step towards reviving the tourism marketing organization.
The service agreement runs for a three-year term to the end of 2025, starting retroactively to Jan. 1 of this year. Council gave its approval to the agreement Monday night.
The agreement was presented at Monday’s council meeting by the city’s economic development manager Jan Swanson. He explained in his presentation that the agreement was already pre-approved for a budget of $40,000 and up to 25 per cent of the economic development manager’s time.
Funding for Destination Battlefords will also come from the Battlefords Hotel Association. Swanson adds there is also an agreement with the Battlefords and District Chamber of Commerce to share one student half-time until September to help the organization get up and running.
The agreement marks a turning point for Destination Battlefords after months of uncertainty and turmoil.
Through 2020 and 2021 Destination Battlefords had all but closed, maintaining minimal staff during a pandemic shutdown period which saw tourism grind to a halt.
It was then dealt a near death blow when the Town of Battleford pulled out as a funding partner. That took effect early in 2022.
From January 2022 on, Destination Battlefords was completely inactive with no staff. By then the organization had also departed their Battlefords River Valley Visitor Centre location. North Battleford council ultimately voted to renovate the building for its own building maintenance staff and operations.
However, work has been proceeding this year to re-constitute and re-organize Destination Battlefords.
There is a board consisting of two representatives from each funding partner as well as a representative at large. Councillors Kelli Hawtin and Kent Lindgren are the city’s two representatives.
On Monday, Hawtin gave council an update on Destination Battlefords and the work currently happening. The indication was the organization was pretty much having to start up again from scratch.
“The board was really at a place where we didn’t have a lot of stuff organized because we lost our staff a couple of years ago, and nothing really happened through the years of the pandemic,” Hawtin said.
Hawtin said they were in a “rebuilding phase,” but noted they had their board solidified and their staff solidified, with Swanson taking on one role (as 25 per cent of his economic development manager position) and with the student from the chamber to help get their advertising and social media going.
“Jan’s been really working on agreements and we’re going to look at our bylaws because those are going to need some revisions with the new partnership,” said Hawtin.
Afterwards, they will work on a strategic plan and think of “one big thing we can work on this year.” Hawtin suggested sports tourism could be a possibility at this point.
Hawtin believed the organization was “on the right track” and this agreement was “the first piece of what we need to kind of give us our mandate to get out of the gates for the next two and a half years.”