Every summer, thousands of people come through the Southwest and now they’re guaranteed to be greeted by smiling faces.
Dozens came out to the Visitor Reception Centre on the Trans-Canada Highway June 16 for its grand re-opening.
The Town of Maple Creek and the Cypress Hills Destination Area are teaming up to run the VRC this summer, with the support of Tourism Saskatchewan and Central Services Saskatchewan, which owns the land.
Maple Creek Community Economic Development Officer Royce Pettyjohn says without the collaborative work of all parties, the building wouldn’t have been re-opened. He’s glad it did, he added, because it looks almost new.
“It’s been a lot of work in a very short period of time, but I think the transformation is really quite remarkable.
“The interior of the building looks very, very different than it did when we inherited it from Tourism Saskatchewan. It has a much more homey feel, it’s much less institutional,” Pettyjohn said.
Tourism injects about $25-30 million into the area’s economy, according to Pettyjohn.
Being able to have visitor centre is best for the area, Executive Director of the CHDA Gail Kessler said.
“It’s really going to showcase our area and showcase all that we got,” she said.
Recently a couple Tourism Saskatchewan officials were in the area and didn’t know just how much stuff to do there was in the Southwest, Kessler said.
“They were blown away saying, ‘There’s almost too much to do.’ They were in the area for three days and didn’t get to do everything.”
Kessler says there is still more stuff they would like to introduce at the centre this year, including concierge service and weekly activities that local businesses hold.
Having new bathrooms and products for sale in the store is definitely a big thing for the centre, she added.
“I really love the pop-up stores and that we’re going to have fresh baking and coffee. We’re not just showcasing by a pamphlet, we’re showcasing the actual products they have.”
Maple Creek Mayor Barry Rudd was on hand at the grand re-opening as well. He says it’s still early in the season, but the centre has already been a success.
“It’s great to see it open,” Rudd said. “It’s proven it’s a centre everybody needs. There’s already been 3,000 people and tourist season hasn’t even really started yet.”
The building is currently just leased for a year, according to Rudd.
“We’ll probably get another lease on it come fall. We’ll certainly be hunting for one, that’s for sure,” he said.
Rudd says he’s already been hearing good things about the Visitor Reception along the highway.
“We got the right people doing the right job and it’ll be successful because it already has the reputation as a good place to start,” he said.
Cypress Hills MLA Doug Steele praised the collaborative work of the town and CHDA during the grand re-opening.
“This is how you get things done – sitting around the table working together … Small beginnings lead to big successes and that’s where we are today. There’s more to come,” Steele said.
Keeping this visitor centre open is crucial, because people may just drive right through the Southwest otherwise.
“It’s the gateway to our province and it creates awareness for what we have to offer,” he said.
Steele says he’s happy there will be a more locally-driven touch to the visitor centre from now on.
You can contact the Visitor Reception Centre at 306-662-3663 if you have any questions.