A public meeting held last week in the resort village of Elbow centered on how the Lake Diefenbaker regional area can continue to promote and market itself in order to see new growth and prosperity in the future.
Held at the Harbor Golf Club on Tuesday, June 18, the meeting was hosted and organized by Lake Diefenbaker Tourism (LDT), the organization comprised of members from within the region that works to promote what the area offers, whether it be retail businesses, accommodations to tourists, experiences, and local events.
One of the key discussions during the meeting was the work being done by the Lake Diefenbaker Task Force, which is fighting the spread of invasive aquatic species and carrying out measures to ensure that they never make their way into the lake, which could be a catastrophe for the future of irrigation and drinking water for much of the province. Joel Perry, a local Elbow business owner and involved with the Task Force, spoke on the initiatives that LDTF has carried out so far, which seemed to make an impression on the dozens of people in attendance at the meeting.
A number of representatives with Tourism Saskatchewan were in attendance, and they highlighted some of the ways that local businesses and attractions can be promoted. One system that can be put to use involves using postal codes to aggregate data, including a customer’s preferences. The system can help businesses identify where a significant portion of their customer base is coming from, and it allows them the chance to market to specific areas to draw interest and further business opportunities.
The meeting served as a way to let people know what both Lake Diefenbaker Tourism and Tourism Saskatchewan in a form of partnership can do for business owners.
“Every time we get people out from Tourism Saskatchewan, I learn so much,” said Kim Trew of Lake Diefenbaker Tourism. “It connects me more and more to what’s happening with Lake Diefenbaker Tourism.”
One of the key reasons why the meeting was held was LDT wanted to gather input and suggestions from business owners and area residents, who all have a stake in one way or another to the Lake Diefenbaker area’s growth. In relation to the talk on invasive species, it was suggested by one person in attendance that a camera system may prove beneficial in monitoring the area, perhaps even an underwater camera. The suggestion was noted, and Lake Diefenbaker Tourism may look into it for the future.
Another person suggested that the area’s improved highway system needs to be promoted, as road conditions sometimes serve as a make or break factor when people are planning an outing. It was said that five or six years ago, some people would “go the other way” and avoid coming into the Lake Diefenbaker area because of the state of the highways at the time, effectively hurting local tourism.
Another person suggested that a ‘Share Your Experience’ sign installed in the area could be beneficial, as advocacy is important to spread the word about any location and its amenities. Some tourists, it was said, need that “one reason” to go out and discover something, and if a sign is installed that asks people to share their experiences in the lake area, positive reviews go a long way in attracting new faces and, ultimately, new business.
Jonathan Potts, Executive Director of Marketing and Communications with Tourism Saskatchewan, said it’s important to know just how you want your community to look to potential tourists. Community branding is about so much more than what you’re trying to tell a potential customer base.
“Branding is not what you say you are, it’s what people say you are and what people believe you to be,” he said. “It’s very important at the human level, and it’s about promoting yourself in an honest and positive way.”
After one person touched on the loss of boat rentals and a loss of some accommodation businesses, local business owner Grace McTavish touched on the work that needs to be done at the grassroots level to keep attracting people.
“The onus is on us to have the things here for when they do come,” she said. “We have to be working to get services to attract them to our 800 km of shoreline.”
“There’s a real demand from people, including some from Alberta,” said Rauncie Kinnaird, a local developer with Sandy Shores Resort. “People want that full experience, and it takes a whole community.”
In the near future, perhaps as early as this fall, Tourism Saskatchewan will be communicating with areas around the province to talk about their Destination Development Plan, which has just been completed. It delves further into the discussion surrounding what’s needed to attract tourism, and public consultations may lead to a meeting in the Lake Diefenbaker area.
“We have our work cut out for us, but we’ve seen phenomenal change in the Lake Diefenbaker area,” said Kim.