Fort McMurray Tourism (FMT) voted to merge with the Wood Buffalo Economic Development Corporation (WBEDC).
Members carried the vote unanimously during today’s annual general meeting at the Oilsands Discovery Centre.
“Together we will create more opportunities for sustainable regional economic growth without duplicating efforts or contradictory brand development,” said FMT Board chair Jonathan Lambert.
The economic downturn and wildfire in 2016 took a toll on the region.
So, businesses collaborated with the FMT, and this year promoted ‘Sport Tourism’.
“Using sporting events, not only the event itself will be great, but the players, families, and relatives that will come into our community shop in our shops, stay in our hotels.” Lambert said. “When they leave project a positive image about Wood Buffalo to the rest of the country and the world.”
The last year saw Wood Buffalo host more single-sport tournaments for baseball, football, snowmobiling, and jet skiing.
Furthermore, social media saw a 21 per cent increase overall in residents and visitor interaction.
Another success story was the FMT sponsored trade show with three held during the spring, fall, and around Christmas time.
Lambert says the support of families goes a long way.
“The really important part is the small business growth. A majority of small businesses come and be a part of these trade show. It’s such an important part of our region and it’s something that will continue, even with the merger.”
The economic impact of the trade shows totalled $1,623,375.
Lambert extended special thanks to FMT CEO Frank Creasey and WBEDC representative Brad Ferguson for their work in organizing the merger.
Goals for 2019 include enhanced visitor experience, continued engagement with rural communities, and further sports tourism opportunities in the region.
What happens now
In a statement, WBEDC President and CEO Kevin Weidlich said the Oilsands Discovery Centre would remain the base for existing Tourism staff.
Telephone numbers and online contacts there will remain in operation.
Effective April 1, 2019, the staff will report to the WBEDC transferring financial and other resources by April 30, 2019.
Lambert said everyone working in tourism and hospitality in our region should expect great things in the future.