Tourism Yorkton recently released a comprehensive Community Action Plan the organization hopes will “increase tourism revenues and visitation through managing and marketing the city as a tourism destination.”
That is a worthy goal, but it is also one which requires some rather dramatic changes locally to be successful.
The issues for tourism are actually quite diverse, and cross into several different areas.
To start with there is the pure economics of tourism.
As an example Yorkton has been thwarted in recent years by a lack of available hotel/motel rooms. The tight market meant some larger events simply were not viable locally because rooms were not available.
But the situation of full hotel rooms is an economic one where supply and demand ultimately adjust to the situation. With rooms in short supply entrepreneurs saw opportunity and in recent months two new facilities have opened, a third is under construction, and a fourth seems likely to be announced sooner, rather than later.
The new rooms open Yorkton to hosting larger events.
But there is also an element missing in the new hotels.
Meeting rooms and banquet facilities are an important element in attracting larger conventions and meetings, and few hotels in Yorkton offer such facilities.
Then there is the area of attractions.
In Yorkton tourism attractions tend to be focused on events, Harvest Showdown, Kalyna Ukrainian Dance Festival, and Yorkton Film Festival being examples.
What we lack is more permanent attractions.
Even the ones that do exist have limitations. As an example the Western Development Museum is essentially closed for the winter, the Godfrey Dean Gallery has almost no evening hours, and the Yorkton Sport Hall of Fame and Museum is open by appointment only.
Those limitations are restrictive for tourists, and need to be addressed.
Some, like the Sport Hall of Fame, could be resolved by a move to the Gallagher Centre, a more reasonable location with much more public hours.
In the case of the WDM and Gallery, how to fund staff for longer hours is something Tourism Yorkton’s Plan must address.
There is also a need to create additional tourism asset infrastructure.
The fact a city like Yorkton has no museum dedicated to local history makes no sense at all. With agricultural history such as Morris Industries, Leon Manufacturing, a one-time centre for turkey production, the Dulmage Bacon for Britain farm, and as the location for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, the city’s history is richly deserving of being shared.
The work started a couple of years ago to establish a modern day farming interpretive centre has grown silent, and the one-time plan to spot the city with outdoor art seems to have stalled.
Such initiative is needed to build a core group of tourist friendly places to visit.
And then there is the issue of money. Tourism Yorkton may have the best plan ever, but without dollars to fund the ideas they will not translate into change.
That will mean tourism partners, hotels/motels, restaurants and similar businesses which benefit directly from visiting tourists must come together. Destination marketing fees added to hotel rooms and meals in other jurisdictions which go to growing the tourism sector through marketing is commonplace. Discussions to do similar things here must take place.
Tourism is important to Yorkton today, but it has potential to be much bigger in terms of its economic significance in the future, but for that to occur change is needed, and the new plan is at least the first step in seeing that occur.