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Visitor numbers up by 3,000 over 2021

Posted on February 16, 2023 by Maple Creek
PLEASED TO MEET YOU: VRC staff Nick Scott and Jaron Wilson outside the Maple Creek Highway VRC last year.

Staff at the Maple Creek Trans-Canada Visitor Reception Centre counted 16,714 visitors walk through the front door last year, an average of 125 per day.
The total is 3,033 more than in 2021, but 3,560 fewer than in 2019.
“If trends continue, we could reach pre-pandemic levels in 2023,” says Savannah Mass, the Town of Maple Creek’s communications and tourism manager.
Her comment is in her Trans-Canada VRC final report for 2022, which was on the agenda at the January 24 Town Council meeting.
The report showed a loss of $19,565.48, with revenue of $71,951.45 and expenses of $91,516.93, of which $55,976.19 is taken up by summer students.
“Summer staff wages remain the most significant expense for the Town of Maple Creek,” Mass says.   The Maple Creek Trans-Canada Visitor Reception Centre was opened to the public for 133 days over five months last year, from May 20 to September 30.
A breakdown of 2022 visitation shows: May, 1,087 (an increase of 881 from 2021; a decrease of 358 from 2019); June, 3,054 (an increase of 1,437 from 2021; a decrease of 1,354 from 2019); July, 5,605 (an increase of 786 from 2021; a decrease of 1,160 from 2019); August, 4,833 (a decrease of 1,354 from 2021; a decrease of 981 from 2019); and September, 2,135 (an increase of 1,283 from 2021; an increase of 293 from 2019).
Saskatchewan residents made up 21 per cent of the visitors served at the VRC, which meant that the vast majority of the economic impact of the centre was new money being injected into the provincial economy.
Other visitor origins were: Alberta (37%), British Columbia (17%); Ontario (10%); Manitoba (7%); International (4%); Quebec (2%); and 2% from other places in Canada.
The 2022 season visitation is comparable to 2021, where 23% of visitors were from Saskatchewan and people from Alberta represented the highest portion of visitors (38%).
“Demonstrably, the effects of the pandemic are still showing in visitation data almost identically for 2022 as it was for 2021,” says Mass.
The report says summer staff tracked inquiries at the VRC to understand why people were stopping there. It turned out that 46 percent of inquiries were related to Maple Creek, with visitors wanting to visit downtown stores or look for accommodation or places to eat.
Overviewing VRC operations, Mass says: “Rather than just being a place people stop to use the washroom and pick up a roadmap, the Maple Creek Trans-Canada Visitor Reception Centre is an immersive experience that welcomes visitors not only to the province of Saskatchewan but also to the specific experiences that can be had just five minutes off the highway in Maple Creek and the broader southwest of Saskatchewan.
“As in previous years, the VRC offered a variety of freshly baked goods from three local bakeries: The Daily Grind, Grotto Gardens, and FunBun Bakery (formerly known as Howard’s Bakery). We also offered fresh-brewed French-press coffee from The Daily Grind Roastery. These products not only created a warm and welcoming aroma within the building but also provided an opportunity to talk with visitors about the products, services, and experiences available in the immediate area.
Mass says the Pop-Up Store program was again a success and source of revenue for the Town of Maple Creek. Each of the six Pop-Up Store cases featured a different retail experience that could be found five minutes off the #1 Highway in the Maple Creek Heritage District.
“We featured local and Saskatchewan-made products, such as Cypress Hills raised honey, Saskatoon berry products, Gravelbourg mustard, handmade soaps from Val-Marie, Saskatchewan steak seasoning, and Saskatchewan preserves from Ranch House Meats in Shaunavon. Our T-shirts and stress cows remain popular items. New this year, stickers were produced featuring the province of Saskatchewan with a blip to mark “Maple Creek”, Cypress Hills Saskatchewan, and Maple Creek Saskatchewan; Maple Creek patches, and Maple Creek embroidered hats – on brand with our T-shirt designs.”
A new 2022 feature was a Promotions Package plan involving surrounding communities and/or organizations.
“The plan allowed for a choice to ‘build-your-own’ package for groups to select ways they wanted to advertise in the VRC for varying fees. Options included rack card display, TV slideshow (photos/video), supplying T-shirts for staff to wear on a day of the week, etc. We had two communities participate. Also new this year was the purchase of a small deep freezer to sell ice cream treats. It was a huge success and was another source of revenue for the facility.
“Visitors throughout the summer regularly commented on how they always make the facility a stop on their seasonal travels. They indicated that they felt it was one of the nicest visitor centres across Canada and often noted how glad they were that it was still operating on this west side of the province as the east-side centre is now closed.”
Councillor Betty Abbott asked Mass what were the best sellers in the VRC.
Mass said “stress cows” still clocked in as number one.
“Year after year, we sell approximately 500 of each colour, black and red,” she said, adding that T-shirt sales also sold well.
On the grocery side, pickled pepperoni and Saskatoon dairy products were popular too.
Councillor Tina Cresswell praised the way the VRC was run, a point echoed by Councillor Len Barkman, who liked the way Saskatchewan products were showcased.
“I look forward to next year,” he said.

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