“Tourism is over,” says Mayor of Fort Smith
The mayor of Fort Smith said the community should “give up” its quest for tourism money and look elsewhere for ways to revitalize the town’s economy.
In a meeting on Tuesday, Fred Daniels told fellow city council members: “I have been in this business for a long time and I have heard this around the table for a long time: tourism, tourism. Well, it’s over. Tourism is over. I am sorry.”
Councilors were reviewing a strategic marketing plan – developed by consultants at a cost of around $ 50,000 – to help the city attract more visitors, residents and businesses.
“We always talk about the same things. It has never worked for 15 years. It won’t work, ”Daniels said.
“It’s time to give it up. There comes a time when you really need to stop and focus elsewhere. “
The mayor said he would prefer to explore ways to secure jobs for the city’s youth in Alberta’s oil sands industries.
“What I would have preferred to do … is take that money and why don’t we go to Fort McMurray, the oil and gas company?” How many of our guys could go out there and find work? Daniels said.
“At one point Fort McMurray came to Smith and they were going to do in and out flights for our young guys. They are also the ones we need to take care of, the younger ones. It is the next ones who will invest in this community. We must have something for them. Oil and gas is a lot of money.
“Some people may not like it. Some say it’s dirty money, right? Well, in the 80s we all had our luck and we were living pretty well. Now I think we owe the next generation the cliché we had in the 80s. You have to excuse me if I want to take them somewhere else.
Priority south route
Tourism has virtually stalled in the Northwest Territories since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Public health measures, including limits on movement of non-residents, mean that tourists can only enter under specific circumstances, for example if they go directly to an isolated lodge where they can isolate themselves in complete isolation. community safety.
It is not known if these measures will remain in place this summer. Even so, some tour operators have said they will close rather than face the prospect of a third summer with few to no guests out of the territory.
Still, community leaders in Fort Smith believe the city’s struggle to harness the tourism trade began long before the pandemic.
Fort Smith Senior Administrator Cynthia White, who championed aspects of the strategic marketing plan following the mayor’s comments, admitted, “We haven’t had much success.
However, White said, the report included “good information” about who the city needs to prosecute and how to market those people.
“It is not about tourism as the only means of economic development,” White said. “It’s about attracting young residents and finding new entrepreneurial opportunities for young families to come into the community, especially since we always seem to be losing jobs at the GNWT. “
The report provided, White said, “a lot of amazing baseline data that we’ll be using for all kinds of things.”
Mayor Daniels and Deputy Mayor Kevin Heron both expressed concern that the report was written by outside consultants rather than Fort Smith companies. White said the consultants were appointed following an open request for proposals and there were no local bids.
“It’s not the kind of job you’re going to find in Fort Smith that is capable of doing,” Leonard Tuckey told other councilors.
“It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of research. For $ 50,000, I don’t think it was a lot of money to spend on this report. We could find a direction here.
Councilors found common ground in their conclusion that an all-weather road south of the community, connecting Fort Smith to Alberta year-round, would go a long way in helping the city grow its economy.
The Council should now identify the continuation of this route as a priority.