For the first time, over 50 cultural and heritage tourism operators got together to discuss the challenges and opportunities that exist for festivals and events, art galleries, museums, performing arts and heritage sites in Manitoba.
Travel Manitoba hosted its first Culture and Heritage Tourism Summit on February 27, as invited representatives participated in a day-long session to identify opportunities to generate growth for this sector of the tourism industry.
“Learning through the discussions that heritage and cultural organizations throughout Manitoba have many common issues, concerns, challenges and that we are all eager to find solutions and seek opportunities was good to hear,” said Ken Green and Barb Ford of Parks Canada, representing the national historic sites Lower Fort Garry, The Forks, Riel House and St. Andrews Rectory.
Lynne Skromeda, Executive Director of the Winnipeg Folk Festival agreed that the chance to share and network with other Manitoba festivals was valuable. “It was really helpful to be able to get together with other people in the community.”
“I find it beneficial when I know the direction Travel Manitoba is taking,” said Tammy Axelsson, Executive Director of the New Iceland Heritage Museum in Gimli. “As a small organization, I can use that to form my overall plan, specifically relating to culture and heritage.”
While the participants had a chance to share success stories and solicit advice from each other, the summit provided Travel Manitoba with some important feedback on the positions and priorities of the participants. Rather that viewing each other as competitors, participants recognized that partnering with each other to drive growth benefits all.
“Key points that resonated with us are that collaborations are needed to be successful and we need to maximize on collective investments to achieve bigger and better things,” said Ken and Barb.
“I think it’s very helpful to have everyone working together up and down the whole chain,” said Tammy, referencing Travel Manitoba’s collaboration with the CTC and collaboration between Travel Manitoba and operators.
“As a community we'd love to see how we can better highlight our cultural uniqueness with Travel Manitoba’s help,” added Lynne, referencing the success Travel Manitoba has had in working with the fishing and hunting sector on marketing initiatives.
Another key point that emerged was the need for a strong provincial tourism brand – one that Travel Manitoba is currently working to develop.
“It would really be great to see the cultural aspects of the province brought up to the forefront again as part of the rebranding,” said Lynne.
“Brand creation for Manitoba is paramount in our minds,” said Ken and Barb. “Creating a brand that expresses the heart and colour of Manitoba would be great.”
Set to launch for 2014, Travel Manitoba’s new brand will be built on two key pillars that represent the province: its wealth and diversity of culture and its accessible outdoor experiences.
“I really like the new focus on cultural oasis and accessible wilderness. It is so important to narrow down your focus to achieve success,” said Tammy, adding that accessible wilderness doesn’t just mean going to Churchill to see polar bears, it can mean a trip to Gimli to experience Lake Winnipeg.
With the brand’s focus becoming clearer, the participants at the summit were very optimistic about the future. There was a general consensus that major investments – like the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the expansion of the Convention Centre, and the development of Winnipeg as a World Trade Centre – are creating a sense of momentum. There was also a consensus that the summit stimulated momentum within the arts, culture and heritage tourism sector and that regular communication with stakeholders is needed to make the most of the connections established at the summit.
“There were a lot of good ideas and priorities – it would be great to get some feedback on what happens with them as Travel Manitoba works through things and be kept in the loop on what initiatives are moving ahead,” said Lynne.
With additional summits planned in April for the accommodations and fish and hunt sector, plus a summit for operators who work in international markets planned for June, watch for updates from Travel Manitoba in future editions of Travel Currents, on the Tourism Industry website and your daily Tourism Industry News.