The evening featured guest speaker Mike Klein of Meshy Communications Inc. in Saskatoon, who spoke on effectively reaching target audiences.
Over 30 people attended the fall forum, which was opened by CHDA executive director Gail Kesslar. She gave an update on the organization’s focus and accomplishments. Kesslar has been with the CHDA since April, during which time she has noticed an increase in its social media presence as more and more people become aware of it. CHDA has produced and distributed thousands of copies of its Insider’s Guide. International writers and bloggers have also toured the area as the CHDA worked in conjunction with Tourism Saskatchewan. Kesslar has also met with tour operators interested in bringing people to the area. This includes Women on the Go tours, who already offered a tour of the area this year, and Taste It Food Tours in Moose Jaw. The first successful bus tour saw CHDA team up with the local and newly-established JTS Bus Lines to bring 47 people from Swift Current to town for the WHL game last month.
Kesslar was pleased to announce the RCMP Musical Ride will be returning to Fort Walsh National Historic Site on July 21, 2015. The event is expected to bring 3,000-4,000 people to the area.
Fort Walsh manager Dan French noted the last time the Musical Ride was in Maple Creek in 2011 it drew about 5,000 people, despite the rainy May weather.
“We’re very excited, and I think it’s just a great opportunity for the area,” he said.
CHDA members were given the opportunity to share how their season was and provide feedback on how the organization could improve on its role.
Tina Cresswell, owner of The Star Cafe & Grill, reported a lot of people are reluctant to include the destination marketing fee (DMF) at their business. The two per cent fee is included in customer’s bills at tourism locations that are a part of the CHDA. The money goes towards regional tourism marketing and development.
“It’s a wonderful tool,” she said. “This DMF supports a wonderful website that has a lot of really good interactive programs that can help you plan your next vacation, buy gift certificates and all those sorts of things.”
Communities may join the CHDA as a core funder by providing $3/capita funding. Currently there are two municipalities on board – the Town of Maple Creek and the Town of Gull Lake. This portion comes from municipal budgets and is used to promote and advertise the community.
Business owners in Maple Creek reported having one of their best years ever. They credit promotions through the CHDA with drawing more people to the area.
Community development officer Royce Pettyjohn noted attendance at the Taste of Maple Creek was up significantly this summer. Having the community named ‘Canada’s Greatest Western Town’ in a contest put on by the Western Horse Review magazine in August also adds to the appeal of the Old Cowtown.
There are currently 17 partners in the CHDA. Additional core funders of the organization include Parks Canada, Saskatchewan Parks, the Town of Maple Creek and the Town of Gull Lake, as well as development support from Tourism Saskatchewan.
Non-profit collaborative CHDA partners are the Frenchman River Gospel Jamboree, Cowtown Pro Rodeo, Old Man on His Back Nature Conservancy and the SW Quest for Art & History.
Klein gave a presentation on marketing to different generations in a way that effectively reaches them. He stated the “old marketing playbook” using the technique of interruption is ineffective today as people are very busy. Marketing now takes more thought to grab the target audience’s attention and avoid wasting money aiming at the wrong people. This is done by recognizing the different behaviours of generations and using a marketing approach based on that uniqueness.
“People say they don’t like advertising, I disagree. They don’t want generic advertising, they want targeted advertising,” Klein said, noting this is a method practised by Facebook, in which information about the user such as age, sex and interests are used to gear advertising towards that specific individual.
Members of the CHDA were pleased with the amount of information the presentation offered in grabbing the attention of those who enjoy visiting the area and taking in an experience geared towards their specific interests.