BATTLEFORD - In a bombshell out of Town Hall, the Town of Battleford is giving notice that they are pulling out of Destination Battlefords.
At their regular meeting Monday , council voted to permit town CAO Ash Alam to give written six months notice to terminate their agreement with the tourism organization, as per their resolution. The indication from council is they want to consider other options to promote tourism in the town.
This move is sure to reverberate in the local tourism sector, with huge implications for the future of Destination Battlefords in terms of marketing tourism in the Battlefords.
Alam made the recommendation to consider alternative options to promote the community. He said Destination Battlefords did a great job for different things over the years, but said there were “some things we felt did not work” for the community. “We are better getting some other platform to try,” said Alam.
The Town of Battleford has been a partner in the Destination Battlefords organization. It pays a yearly fee of $48,315 to Destination Battlefords under their agreement, according to Mayor Ames Leslie.
But that annual cost has turned out to be a major sore point for council. They made clear Monday they felt they were not getting value for money from the arrangement, citing a lack of focus on Battleford.
“We’ve given it a fair run for our money, it’s not like we’ve just been in this for a couple of years,” said Councillor Shelley Boutin-Gervais.
“I just don’t think we got the benefit from the amount of money that we’re putting in to it. I think there's perhaps other options out there that we could promote ourselves in a more effective manner.”
Councillor Doug Laing agreed. He noted that with the COVID-19 slowdown and the hit to such things as sports tournaments, “we need this tourism marketing to work harder than ever and to help to drive some people to the restaurants, to the hotels and to our community,” he said.
“It needs to really take the lead here, and I think the fact that we’re able to look at some new options is going to be good. And I’m in favour of this.”
Councillor David George said he would support exiting even earlier than six months.
“If we can get out sooner I am all for that. I think we’ve spent enough money over the last number of years,” said George.
Councillors Kevin Russell, Alexis Christensen and Judy Pruden also supported pulling out and exploring new options. Pruden has served on the Destination Battlefords board.
She noted in that “some of the targets that were laid out” for Destination Battlefords had not been met.
“It’s unfortunate because we are partners in it,” said Pruden. “As hard as it is to make a change, sometimes it has to happen.”
“It’s not an easy decision because this is a partnership to develop tourism between two communities,” said Mayor Leslie, pointing to Battleford and North Battleford.
The mayor also pointed to some other efforts being done to promote tourism in Battleford. He noted a couple of weeks earlier, CJNB’s Grant Schutte had done a “two-minute splurge” in which he promoted the Fred Light Museum, and noted the uptick from that “was big.”
“It was probably some of the best tourism promotion we’ve gotten in the last year and a half, so it made me wonder why we couldn’t get more of that.”
Mayor Leslie acknowledged the Destination Battlefords board could come back to speak to council, but said “we need to start the ball rolling on what it looks like to look at different options,” he said.
“It’s not an easy decision but I can agree with council,” said Leslie.
The resolution carried unanimously. Council is also directing administration to explore whether they can get out of the agreement earlier, in three months instead of six. Alam said they would look into that.