Local Journalism Initiative
Community Futures West Yellowhead (CFWY) is ready to move into stage two of their Tourism Industry Business Retention and Expansion (TIBRE) project, which includes working with the local tourism community.
Through a provincial Community and Regional Economic Support (CARES) grant, CFWY plans to help local tourism operators get organized on what it is they would like to do as a business community, explained Nancy Robbins, general manager of CFWY.
CFWY will also develop new tourism products and business plans over the summer months to share with the community for those interested in going into the tourism industry, Robbins added.
The CARES grant was given to CFWY for projects related to creating new business opportunities for the tourism industry beginning May 2020, and an open house related to the TIBRE project will be rescheduled to September 2020 in recognition of the COVID-19 public health crisis, the TIBRE report stated.
Robbins added CFWY is a little bit behind because of COVID, but that the project will continue throughout the summer and a public launch of the project will be held once public health measures allow.
TIBRE is a community-focused economic development project to enhance tourism offerings and grow tourism businesses. It was designed to identify business retention issues and expansion opportunities for existing tourism businesses.
“One of the interesting things about this is that we were able to capture data pre-COVID, which I think will really serve us in the long run and give us some kind of indication of what the tourism industry looked like before the COVID economic crisis,” Robbins said.
Over 100 local tourism businesses were identified and 59 agreed to participate in the TIBRE project and survey in late 2019.
“I think what we can gather from this is that Hinton is really ready to build some tourism products and is really ready to engage tourism as an industry that can really diversify the economy,” Robbins said.
Findings found that Hinton’s tourism industry is relatively mature with 41 per cent of the businesses surveyed being in operation for more than 10 years while 39 per cent were in operation between one and four years.
Participants attributed an average of 49 per cent of their business to tourism and considered an average of 57 per cent of their visitors live within 1.5 hours of Hinton. The majority, 39 per cent, of non-local visitors come from Alberta, 32 per cent come from other provinces, and 27 per cent are international.
At the time these businesses were surveyed in 2019, 36 per cent expected the number of visitors to increase in 2020, while 24 per cent expected a decrease.
When asked to identify constraints to any type of expansion, 24 per cent said there was inadequate financial return on improvement/investment, and 49 per cent cited the economic climate at the time in 2019.
Of the businesses surveyed, the majority, at 36 per cent, were food and beverage businesses, and 25 per cent were made up of retail.
Next steps to this TIBRE project in Hinton included addressing immediate issues with specific businesses as they were identified in the interview.
Reports and final analysis were shared with the community and with contributing stakeholders in early May 2020.