By Justin Seward
The UCP government has decided not to provide funds to the local tourism agency to operate the Walsh tourist centre for another year.
As a result the centre will be closed starting this year and there are no plans by the provincial government to offer any more funding to keep the centre operating in the future.
The Tourism of Medicine Hat was on A fee-for-service contract through the government’s visitors service division since 2016.
The local tourism agency was funded over $69,000 per year to operate the Walsh centre.
“We were recently made aware that in 2020, the ministry was not planning on opening a number of their gateway centres,” said Jace Anderson, executive director for Tourism Medicine Hat.
“We have a number of visitor centres on primary access roads in the province from all four directions. They’re modifying, tweaking and changing some of the strategies and some of the ways they serve the visitors in the region.”
Anderson says the local impact will see not being seeing the revenue that was available to hire the travel counsellors over the summer and the Walsh tourist centre saw 20,000 visitors last summer and the organization would have anticipated a similar number this summer had the centre opened.
“The reality is that for a significant number of those people heading west and which case the visitors centre in Medicine Hat will be the first opportunity for them to pull off the highway,” said Anderson.
“We’ll have an opportunity to serve their travel counsel needs. We’ll likely see more people at our visitors centre as a result.”
He put into perspective with the closure that Tourism Medicine Hat had worked collaboratively with Cypress County and other regional partners for a number of years to align their promotional effort.
“While the visitors centre itself won’t be open, when people pull into our Medicine Hat Visitor Centre or review our information both in print and online, we’re pleased that we’ll still be able to provide compelling lures and invitations for travelers to linger throughout southeast Alberta,” said Anderson.
The Minister of Tourism responded that travelers are looking down different avenues for their tourism fix in the area.
We made the decision to close our Visitor Information Centres that have seen drastically reduced traffic in recent years,” said Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism spokesperson Justin Brattinga.
“The way people access travel information has changed dramatically in recent years – apps and websites have resulted in fewer people using some of our bricks-and-mortar Visitor Information Centres. The Walsh centre was only open seasonally and saw significantly fewer visitors than some of our other Visitor Information Centres. The closure will be effective for the start of the 2020 spring/summer season.”