Tourist destinations in British Columbia can apply for the province’s Resort Municipality Initiative program, and this is a program Sylvan Lake town council wants brought to Alberta.
“It doesn’t currently exist in Alberta,” explained Sylvan Lake Mayor Megan Hanson. “It’s a dream for us.”
Hanson said council is currently in the research stage of what that program could look like here in Alberta and they’re working to refine what they’re going to ask the province for.
“There are a number of communities that have been requesting this,” said Hanson, listing Banff, Canmore and Jasper. “We want to be part of that too. We are a very big asset to the province. Especially during the pandemic, it seemed like most of the province came to visit us. We think it’s important that’s recognized by the provincial government.”
Exploring a resort municipality designation is one of the top four priorities for Sylvan Lake town council, along with advocating for a new high school, bringing Victim Services back to the community and attracting more doctors to fill the healthcare needs in town.
In BC, the Resort Municipality Initiative program is managed by the ministry of tourism, arts, culture and sport. According to the BC government website, the program is intended to support small, tourism-based municipalities to build and diversify their tourism infrastructure, deliver exceptional visitor experiences and incorporate sustainable tourism practices and products.
In BC, the program funds projects that result in key outcomes for these resort-based communities, such as extending or diversifying the community’s tourism season, increasing the number of first-time and return visitors, improving the sustainability of the tourism sector and enhancing visitor experiences.
In the 2022 BC provincial budget, $39 million over three years was committed to this program.
“It’s recognition from the provincial government that these towns see a lot of visitors every year,” said Hanson, adding that it’s up to the town to provide more amenities than their permanent residents would need, to accommodate for the needs of the expected annual influx of visitors. This could be transit options, additional enforcement and more.
“There are a number of things in Sylvan Lake that we pay for that are more than our population needs,” said Hanson. “We do recoup some of that cost, such as with our paid parking program, but in BC, this status allows the towns to be able to bring in additional revenue associated with those visitors.”
“Every time we get in front of someone in leadership, we want to talk about these things,” Hanson said of council’s list of priorities.