The Hinton and Alberta Northern Rockies Destination Stewardship (HANRDS) is looking to partner with the Town of Hinton to implement a destination management plan (DMP) and contribute to Hinton’s economic growth.
This DMP would in turn improve visitor experience, increase visitation, and increase resident quality of life.
Several Hinton business owners make up the HANRDS group who are working towards rebuilding all that has been lost of Hinton’s visitors’ economy due to COVID-19.
Kelly Armstrong, a member of HANRDS, told council that the plan needs to be developed first and that governance around the plan will evolve over time.
Most commonly, a destination management organization (DMO) is created to oversee a DMP, according to their presentation to council at the May 11 standing committee meeting.
The DMO can be made up of Town administration, a local business organization such as the Chamber of Commerce, or a board made up of business owners.
Coun. Ryan Maguhn referenced some discussions with businesses in the community on their biggest challenges and future opportunities.
“The big thing I constantly come back to in discussions is the importance of having a plan that’s driven by our businesses where there is a lot of say in ownership from the grass roots,” he said.
He believed this plan should not be created by organizations without boots on the ground.
“The people who are experts in the field should be the ones who have the biggest say in giving us some direction democratically on what the best plan is economically for our community. We as a council, and a community, and a municipality really have to have our ears open to that,” he said.
To seriously consider moving forward with this plan, council could look at making budget dollars available during the next budget discussions. Coun. Dewly Nelson asked how much HANRDS estimated this plan would cost per year, which has not been fully realized yet until more of the plan is hashed out.
The DNP could be funded in many different ways, including municipal funding, membership fees, fee for services, destination marketing fee, stakeholder contributions, pay to play, or short term rental costs.
While some funding options aren’t consistent, Armstrong noted that all together they could provide a solid funding model.
“In having all of those different pieces put together, I think that we will find sustainability,” Armstrong said. There would also be extra funding that could go towards new community initiatives like a splash park, she suggested, which would attract new visitors and benefit multiple businesses in a trickle down effect.
Under the Municipal Government Act (MGA), municipalities do not have the authority to implement a destination marketing fee, the presentation stated, but an established DMO would have access to other funding and grants.
Armstrong explained that the DMP would improve the quality of life of all residents as the benefit of additional visitors would trickle down to various businesses, who would then be able to sponsor additional initiatives.
The plan as presented would run for four years with potential funding from the Town of Hinton.
“The whole idea behind this is that we would be doing a lot of advertising and create an awareness of what we do have in Hinton,” said Garth Griffiths, another member of HANRDS.
He added that they are a marketing group promoting existing businesses and services to promote tourism.
Armstrong noted that local unique businesses and services feed into Hinton’s brand. “We can do a lot of different things that other places cannot do, and we would be able to build that and market that,” she said.
Garth and Armstrong pointed towards some other communities who have operated successful DMP’s comparable to what Hinton could have, including Canmore, Drumheller, and Waterton.
“I think Hinton is unique in its own ways and we have so many great aspects that we can utilize. We are situated perfectly, we just need a plan to execute,” Armstrong said.
The goal for year one is to introduce Hinton as a coordinated regional destination and highlight existing products. That would include developing and implementing a marketing plan, developing an interactive website, working with local stakeholders to research and apply for sport tourism opportunities, installing Visitor Experience Centre displays focusing on the Visit Alberta Northern Rockies and Hintons brand, facilitating meetings, and coordinating a Visitor Experience workshop speaker series.
Year two would focus on product development and building recognition, while year three and four would focus on value added partnerships in the region.
Armstrong suggested that the Town and HANRDS work together with Doug Griffiths, founder of 13 Ways Inc. who specialize in building communities. HANRDS could also work with Hinton’s economic development officer towards a plan and possible funding.
Council will have a discussion about this initiative at a future council meeting.
Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice