Staff of the Sylvan Lake Chamber of Commerce are excited about the potential impact of the Passport to Winter program.
“Many chambers of commerce organize Passport to Christmas programs, but our board decided to take it a step further,” said Denise Bryan-Williams, the Chamber’s executive director.
“Instead of making it a six-week event to incentivize people to do their Christmas shopping here at home, we chose to address a challenge that Sylvan Lake businesses face every year, which is attracting people to their businesses after the busy holiday season,” she explained, adding that this is a program that any business can participate in – not just retail shops.
“We’d like to see some diverse businesses participate as well because this is about local spending of all kinds.”
Bryan-Williams said Passport to Winter is based on a simple concept.
“For every $10 spent at a participating business, you’ll get a stamp in your passport. When the passport is full, you can turn it in at the three locations listed on the passport.”
In January and February, the Chamber will start making draws for local gift cards which again encourages local spending, she said.
“Our secondary goal with this program is to drive awareness of our new app, Explore Sylvan Lake, which is a business directory of businesses in Sylvan Lake that is intended to be a resource for locals and visitors alike,” she said.
“We have a lot of plans ready to launch in 2023 that use this platform to help promote our local businesses.”
On the app, people will find out who is participating and businesses can register for Passport to Winter.
The public can also download a passport to print or upload their full passports (this is in addition to the print passports which can be found at the participating businesses), she added.
“We only recently launched (Passport to Winter), and businesses can sign up at any time between now and March 1st,” said Bryan-Williams.
The goal is to sign up 50 businesses for the first year.
“We can only run programs like this if there is interest from the business community, so we encourage people to sign up by mid-January before the big push,” she said.
“Our collective voices are stronger this way as we remind people to spend their dollars here at home. The cost to sign up is nominal and helps us cover printing and advertising costs.”
She noted that this is the first year the chamber has run Passport to Winter in Sylvan Lake.
“In the past, we have coordinated shop local initiatives that were tied specifically to the Christmas shopping season, but as a chamber we recognize that we need to keep sight of the months that are harder for local businesses and this checked that box.”
Bryan-Williams said feedback about the program has been very encouraging.
”I had the pleasure of personally distributing the passports and posters to those businesses that signed up, and had very positive feedback – specifically with people saying how much they appreciate that its focus is beyond Christmas when sales are significantly lower and slower.”
As she also pointed out, every dollar spent in the community is an investment in Sylvan Lake.
“By keeping your dollars local, you are investing in the economic development of Sylvan Lake, helping to create jobs, and building a sense of community and connection.
“At this time of year, you don’t have to look far to see how local businesses make an impact,” she added.
“Sponsors help make things happen like the Yuletide Festival, Winter Village and other events which happen every year. They sponsor kids’ sports, fundraise and donate to our local food bank, Christmas Bureau and community partners and other non-profits that need it,” she said.
Bryan-Williams encourages folks to ask themselves if there is a business in Sylvan Lake that has the products and services they need before spending outside of the community.
“This is a great way to say thank you to them.”
For more information, visit www.sylvanlakechamber.com.