Town supports tourism grant application

·3 min read

A letter of support from Hinton’s council will help Explore Alberta’s Northern Rockies (EANR) proceed with their application for the federal Tourism Relief Fund grant.

EANR is a new destination marketing organization (DMO) to promote the Hinton area and increase visitation.

At this time, the activities to support Hinton’s visitor economy do not have a sustainable funding model, but pursuing the Tourism Relief Fund through Western Economic Diversification could provide funding for EANR’s first year of operations.

“This is not a grant that [the municipality] is applying for. We are just supporting and, quite frankly, it’s important that we do support [EANR] because potentially if they are unsuccessful with this application then they might be coming to the municipality for funding,” said Coun. Trevor Haas during the Nov. 9 Committee of the Whole meeting.

Without a secure source of funding to hire a DMO administrator, it could come before Council for support through the civic agency process in partnership with a local organization that has tourism administration experience, confirmed Scott Kovatch, Hinton’s economic development officer.

Kovatch noted that the Town earmarked $50,000 in carry-forward funds from the 2021 budget in the event that the tourism relief fund is unsuccessful. The goal of the Tourism Relief Fund is to position Canada to be a destination of choice for domestic and international travel and provides $500M dollars over two years.

The fund has two themes, product development and destination development. This fund aligns with deliverables in the EANR terms of reference such as reviewing and updating a previous destination marketing plan (DMP), identifying revenue-generating opportunities, creating and executing the marketing plan, and determining the need for a DMO administrator.

Kovatch said the funds would cover the creation of a DMP and the associated administrative salary.

The grant will accept eligible project costs retroactive to April 19, 2021, not normally exceeding $500,000. Kovatch noted that as a non-profit organization application, this is a non-matching fund and is non-repayable. For-profit businesses are required to repay their grant up to a certain percentage based on the amount granted.

Back in 2016, a provincially funded group, Alberta Northern Rockies Tourism Alliance (ANRTA), made significant headway on a DMP with support from regional municipalities and groups. The top four goals in this plan were to improve destination coordination and cohesiveness, the visitor experience, visitation to the region, and residential quality of life.

After losing traction, interest was renewed in 2020 and work started with Discover Alberta Northern Rockies (DANR), the local hotel industry, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Hinton shopping districts to develop appropriate supports for the visitor economy.

Heather Waye, Hinton’s strategic services manager, explained that there were two groups attempting to achieve a DMO, which were consolidated into one group called EANR.

Representatives from DANR, Hinton Shopping Districts, the local Hinton Hotel Group, and the Chamber of Commerce, met to develop terms of reference for EANR. The group is now applying for the grant with a letter of support from council to be included in their grant application.

According to administration’s report, the DMO will increase the community profile, strengthen business relationships, build trust and credibility as a support for the industry, create and maintain a competitive edge in the market, attract visitors, grow and attract opportunities for tourism products, create jobs, and increase the tax base.

Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice

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