The Maple Creek Trans-Canada Visitor Reception Centre drew record numbers in August, just-released figures show.
As many as 6,187 visitors entered the VRC after provincial COVID-19 restrictions were lifted on July 11 and triggered a surge in numbers.
Also seen as encouraging was the amount spent on Town of Maple Creek giftware, excluding pop-up store sales. Revenue totalled $6,738.71 – an increase of $1,108.01 on 2019’s figure of $5,630.70.
Statistics for the VRC’s 2021 season were given to the News-Times by Savannah Mass, communications and tourism manager for the Town of Maple Creek.
“Overall, we had a very good season,” Mass said last week.
The Maple Creek Trans-Canada VRC promotes Maple Creek and the Cypress Hills-Grasslands Destination Area, playing an ambassadorial role in welcoming visitors to Saskatchewan. Manning the centre this year were: Leila Noval and Emma Walkow, from Maple Creek; Travis Illerbrun, from Shaunavon, who stayed in a Cypress Hills cabin; and Brianna MacPherson and Teanna Oulette, from Medicine Hat.
After being closed in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the VRC was reopened to the public on Friday, May 21, 2021.
From May 21 to July 1, the VRC was open daily, 9am to 5pm. From the beginning of July until August 31, the centre was open daily 9am to 7pm.
On September 1, until closing day on Tuesday, September 7, the VRC returned to reduced hours of 9am to 5pm.
One of the reasons for the slightly earlier closing date was a shortage of visitor centre attendants.
Over a five-month period this year, the facility was open to the public for 109 days.
The VRC received 13,681 visitors between May 21 and September 7, an average of 125 visitors per day, 6,593 fewer than 2019.
Here is a breakdown of that total by month:
May 2021: 206 (a decrease of 1,239 from 2019);
June: 1,617 (a decrease of 2,791 from 2019);
July: 4,819 (a decrease of 1,946 from 2019);
August: 6,187 (an increase of 373 over 2019); and
September: 852 (a decrease of 990 from 2019).
Each visitor was counted as he or she walked through the door, and visitation statistics were recorded on an hourly basis. Copies of the daily statistics are available upon request.
Alberta was a big source of visitors: 38 per cent. Two years ago, 18 per cent of people came from overseas. However, this year the number was 3 per cent after COVID-19 reduced international travel.
There was an increase of visitors from Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba – a factor attributed again to the pandemic, as many people chose to travel in Canada, rather than go abroad.
Mass said the feedback from visitors to the VRC was extremely positive.
“Also, the feedback from attractions and businesses in Maple Creek was overwhelmingly positive,” she added.
Mass said businesses within the Maple Creek Heritage District reported another solid year of traffic and sales, a positive bounce-back after the 2020 season.
This season’s VRC figures were contained in Mass’s written report to Maple Creek Town Council for Tuesday’s meeting