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April 2018 Mayor's Column

Excellent progress being made on coordination, collaboration on local tourism marketing

This Monday, Apr. 23, members of City Council will receive an update from the organization we established during the previous term of council to foster a more collaborative, coordinated approach to tourism in Lethbridge.

The Lethbridge Destination Management Organization (LDMO) has assumed many of the responsibilities the City of Lethbridge previously contracted out or delegated to various organizations. City Council's goal is to have a single entity promoting, coordinating and fostering growth of the experiences for visitors to Lethbridge for Leisure & Sport Tourism and Meetings and Conventions. A great deal of work has been occurring over the past four months by the LDMO, and I'm extremely pleased with the progress that's being made.

A governance board has been established with representation from a cross section of business sectors that cater to tourism, and in January, the board appointed William Slenders as Executive Director to lead the organization.

At our Community Issues Committee meeting on Monday, Mr. Slenders will provide highlights from the Marketing and Lethbridge Co-ordination Plan that's been developed to foster a unified tourism industry in our city. All sectors that service visitors have a stake in the plan's success and stand to benefit by collaborating rather than working in isolation from each other. Tasks completed by the LDMO to date include:

  • Development of new and innovative visitor information networks
  • Targeted visitor research and opportunities for visitor attraction
  • Development of a Lethbridge Content Framework for destination marketing
  • Development of a Destination Showcase
  • Develop new plans for long term Sport Tourism attraction
  • Website "funnels" for Leisure and Sport as well as meetings and Conventions

Among the new approaches being developed is a recognition that visitor information is accessed much differently today than in the past. Information for tourists used to be tied to physical locations where visitors would go to find out about attractions and travel information. Many of you now would most likely go to Google or other sites like TripAdvisor or Facebook to find recommendations for things to do while traveling or planning a trip.   

Physical visitor centres are evolving to reflect this change in information gathering or are disappearing altogether. The expansion of digital and web-based tourist services will also allow Lethbridge to tailor its online marketing to different types of tourists: those traveling for leisure, those attending sporting events, and those visiting to attend meetings and conventions.

There's still a great deal of work to do, but the LDMO is moving in an exciting direction. A new website is to be announced in May. We hope all residents of Lethbridge will become familiar with it and serve as ambassadors for our city.

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We continue to work closely with Lethbridge County on the details of formal agreements necessary to transfer ownership of the Lethbridge Airport to the City of Lethbridge. The County has owned and operated the airport since 1997, when Transport Canada relinquished ownership of regional and local airports to regional and community interests.

In mid-March, we jointly announced that we had reached an agreement in principle, and members of both the County and City Councils approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the ownership and governance of the airport to be transferred to the City by June 1 this year. Under the MOU, the County agreed that during the current transfer period, governance of the airport becomes the responsibility of the City. Until the City determines a new operating and governance model for the airport, the County will continue to operate it on a fee-for-service basis.

City Council anticipates following the advice in recent reports that recommend an airport commission model of governance be implemented. We also expect the development of this governance model should be complete by the end of this year. Once a new governance body is in place, it will then develop a new operating model for the airport.

The airport is an important economic asset for economic growth in Lethbridge and our surrounding communities. The MOU has allowed us, as the City of Lethbridge, to immediately begin working to seek federal and provincial grants to help fund the improvements and expansion that are needed to enhance the airport's viability. Because of our city's larger population base, we receive more substantial per-capita funding from the federal and provincial governments and are therefore better positioned to secure the necessary funding for such improvements.

A recent article in National Newswatch underscores the importance of airports to employment and economic growth in Canada. The article refers to the Canadian Airports Council's (CAC) report on airports' economic impact, which shows a clear, consistent upward trend in passenger growth, employment, and contributions to Gross Domestic Product.

According to the report, in 2016, Canada's airports handled more than 140 million passengers, an increase of 112 per cent from 1988, and directly contributed $48 billion in economic output, $19 billion in GDP, 194,000 jobs as well as $13 billion in wages. 

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Every spring brings its share of potholes, but this year has been especially challenging because of the unusually long and harsh winter we've had. Further hampering our crews' efforts to repair potholes has been repeated snowfalls this month that have forced them to start and then suspend repairs until the snow melts and the roads dry.

Now that winter appears to be over, for real, pothole repair crews are out in full force working to repair potholes around the city as quickly as possible. They are focusing initially on our busiest arterial roads. Once those are done, they will concentrate on repairs along bus routes and then residential areas. No one wants to put up with potholes any longer than necessary, and we all appreciate your patience.

You can report potholes by using the Leth Requests app (or available at your app store) or by calling Public Operations at 403-320-3850. The Leth Requests app provides precise geo-location, and you can submit a photo which is helpful to the road crew assessing the severity of the pothole.

Mayor Chris Spearman
April 20, 2018