Attendees networked after the Sept. 21 Sylvan Lake Tourism Festival and Event Strategy Stakeholders Input Session.

Attendees networked after the Sept. 21 Sylvan Lake Tourism Festival and Event Strategy Stakeholders Input Session.

Sylvan Lake brainstorms tourism strategy

Stakeholder input session listed oppportunities and challenges

Four round-tables of Sylvan Lake stakeholders discussed the community’s tourism and festival strategy last night at the NexSource Centre.

Justin Rousseau of Expedition Management Consulting provided an overview of the project and facilitated the two-hour input session. The objective of this project is “ to position Sylvan as a must-experience tourist destination.”

A survey done in the community identified music festivals as number one in events Sylvan Lake needs to focus on as part of the strategy. Other areas the community voted on in order of interest included family, sports, culinary, art, drama, multicultural and agricultural events.

Cheryl Fisher, Producer of Jazz at the Lake Festival shared her key challenge in organizing music festivals, the need for a performance venue.

“With our current options the acoustics are not great and we desperately need a devoted space to performance,” she said. Her concern was echoed by many in the room and included in the list of challenges collected from the feedback sessions.

Lisa Lima, Industry Development Manager for Travel Alberta was in attendance and shared with the group her organization is looking to promote areas outside of provincial parks. One of the opportunities she brought to the discussion was for Sylvan to look at “shoulder-seasons” – spring and fall – to find more travel offerings.

Each table brainstormed opportunities and challenges the community faces in developing tourism. The discussion included a wide range of ideas including having a winter holiday village with the suggestion to lobby town council to “light up downtown bigger and better.” Other opportunities raised were offering winter rentals (skates, ice fishing huts and snowshoes), kite skiing, ice golf, symphony at the lake, open mic nights, craft beer and wine tastings and dinner theatres.

One of the risks brought up is the potential clash between tourism and community events. “Having more tourists in the area can stress residents and strain resources,” Rousseau said. However, he presented Jasper’s Dark Sky event as a case study for creating success through new funding, events and partnerships saying, “If the community is enthused enough, it can happen.”

Several key challenges were raised during the discussion. Vicki Kurz, Economic Development Officer for Sylvan Lake brought up the importance of supporting surrounding areas, “We need to build better partnerships and not just think within municipal borders,” she said.

One of the issues brought to the forefront was that Sylvan needs to have its branding clearly identified, a process Kurz said takes about five years to implement. Another concern was how to build in respect for the environment and create a culture around festivals where people know this is a consideration.

One of the main challenges identified was in deciding who is responsible for events, businesses or government. “We’re in limbo on who is going to do what,” Councillor Dale Plante said. This was noted by Rousseau who reminded the group the five year vision of creating a “clear framework, organizational structure and funding model” will include clarity on roles.

Economic Development Officer, Vicki Kurz stressed the importance of tying the input from the meeting into the waterfront development strategy. Several more input events will be held after the election with Kurz hoping to have those wrapped up by May 2018.