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Awareness of CHDA, Cypress Hills is growing

Posted on November 12, 2013 by Maple Creek

Tourism stakeholders and operators came together and networked at the Cypress Hills Destination Area (CHDA) fall forum Nov. 6 at Shaunavon.
“The fall forum is one of two opportunities that Cypress Hills Destination Area Inc. facilitates for its members to get together in the spring and the fall of each year,” said Royce Pettyjohn, chairman of the CHDA’s board of directors.

The CHDA encompasses an area from Elkwater, Alberta to Grasslands National Park at Val Marie. The meeting was held in Shaunavon as organizers wanted to reflect that the destination area has operations and activities throughout the region.
“We had representatives there from the Saskatchewan-Alberta border through to Shaunavon,” said Pettyjohn. “It was a pretty good cross-section of members in  the geographic area in which we operate. Unfortunately we didn’t have anyone from Val Marie, but pretty much everywhere else – Eastend, Maple Creek, Shaunavon, and  the Cypress Hills area.”
The event’s keynote speaker was  Mary Taylor-Ash, the executive director of marketing with Tourism Saskatchewan. Taylor-Ash has also had a successful career working in Newfoundland and Labrador with advertising campaigns.
Taylor-Ash’s speech focused on the changes Tourism Saskatchewan has faced in becoming a Crown Corporation and the results of the organization’s strategic planning operations which they began this year.
“She also spoke about the importance of collaborating and working together as a destination area in order to achieve our marketing goals or increasing visitation to the area and of course tourism-related revenues,” said Pettyjohn.
As chair of the board, Pettyjohn gave an overview of what the organization has accomplished in their inaugural year. This year the destination marketing organization for the region was established.
“We know that through the core funding that we are currently receiving and also through the collection of the destination marketing fee, that a variety of the member operators have voluntarily imposed, we are able to generate the revenues,” said Pettyjohn. That revenue will help the organization to operate, market and hire staff in the future.
The CHDA will also be looking into hiring an executive director to facilitate growth and operations and will be implementing strategic planning in 2014.
Although a large portion of tourism in the Southwest is focused in Maple Creek and the Cypress Hills area, the CHDA has found that visitors are also planning excursions for the Eastend, Gull Lake and Shaunavon areas. Travel corridors like the Trans-Canada Highway enable visitors to plan for excursions to, for example, Grasslands National Park and also visit the Cypress Hills.
Some operators indicated they had increased visitation this year, said Pettyjohn. “Some of them said that it was the best summer that they’ve had since they have been operating, and one of the operators who was able to track their revenues directly to the work of the CHDA indicated that they had generated at least $12,000 in sales that they wouldn’t have otherwise have realized as a result of the destination area initiative being in place.”
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The fall forum also revealed that throughout the year awareness of the CHDA and the Cypress Hills has grown.
“We did trade shows and worked with some of the other tourism marketing areas like Tourism Medicine Hat, Tourism Swift Current or Tourism Saskatchewan.Everyone had comments on how remarkably well we’ve done as an area in branding and promoting ourselves,” Pettyjohn noted. He also remarked that at this year’s Calgary Stampede tradeshow the Cypress Hills were probably the single most asked about destination within Saskatchewan.
“Traditionally Cypress Hills had always ranked very highly, for specific inquiries at the Calgary Stampede show. It was never number one, but it is starting to creep up that way,” said Pettyjohn.

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