Event tourism can bring much needed tourism dollars to a community that you might not traditionally think of as a tourist destination, and Brandon Manitoba is just the type of city that benefits greatly from this type of visitor. We may not have mountains, or waterfalls, or ancient ruins, but Brandon hosts some of the best events in the country. The importance of these kinds of guests is not lost on the team at Brandon Tourism, and they work closely with us at Brandon First to bring the best events to our community and region.
“I think it is really where we are best suited as a community,” says Lois Macdonald, General Manager of Brandon Tourism, “We don’t necessarily have the major leisure tourism attractions that some other communities might have, but Brandon is very, very good at hosting people and very good at throwing a party.”
This can be easily seen in the caliber of events this city is able to attract despite its modest size. We’ve recently held national sport competitions (CIS National Women’s Volleyball, Home Hardware Canada Cup curling), international level conferences (International Moose Symposium), the largest Agricultural exhibition in the country (Manitoba Ag Days), horse shows that draw participants from across North America (Canadian Arabian and Half Arabian Championship Horse Show) and much more.
Some of our ability to host so well lies in our facilities. MacDonald says “We’re centrally located, we have amazing facilities like the Keystone Centre, we have fantastic hotels and restaurants, and all of the supporting infrastructure that’s necessary for a successful event.” However, she adds that our buildings alone are not what make Brandon special, “I think over and above all that it’s the spirit of all the people that live here. The fact that we really do want to have you here, and I don’t just mean ‘we’ as Brandon Tourism but every single resident that lives here, and I think that’s the thing that makes us special.”
Brandon’s welcoming atmosphere, epitomizing the age old slogan “Friendly Manitoba”, means that events are recognized and truly appreciated in the community. Events of all sizes are a big deal here; everyone is pleased to have them in our city, and everyone comes together to provide a memorable, positive experience.
While Brandon Tourism does fully support event tourism as a major economic driver, they also provide reactive tourism services for anyone who has chosen to come to Brandon. “Whatever the reason may be: for business, to visit friends and family, to come to an event, we provide them with all the information that they need. [We do this] through our website, through our visitor guide, [or] through booths and information kiosks at different events throughout our community.” MacDonald says. Brandon Tourism also operates the Visitor Centre for Brandon and Southwest Manitoba. Open 360 days a year at the Riverbank Discovery Centre, they welcome between 25,000 and 30,000 visitors annually from all around the globe. Some are just passing through and stop to get information about other places, but Tourism’s goal is to encourage them to stay in Brandon a little while longer, whether to have a meal, stay over, or to take in one of the city’s incredible events or attractions.
The tourism industry, like all industries, is constantly changing. People are not just looking for a destination anymore, but an experience, and that’s where Brandon’s incredible event hosting qualities come into play. The city is working to remain competitive and build towards the future of tourism. MacDonald has some great ideas on how the community can do that. “I think the Accommodation Tax is one way that we are ensuring we stay competitive. I think it provides us with a unique edge that a lot of other communities don’t have.” This program, launched by the City of Brandon in 2012 and managed by Economic Development, provides budget relief grants to events coming to Brandon for the first time, events that are expanding to draw in a new segment of visitors, events in danger of leaving Brandon for another location, and venues needing capital improvements to host specific events. Brandon First provides support to this program and helps with applications, room night tracking, education about the program itself and writing final reports.
“I think there is a lot of opportunities for many organizations and groups to partner together even more,” says MacDonald in addition to her comment on the Accommodation Tax program, “I hope to work with a lot of Brandon businesses to share with them that Tourism is big business, and it generates millions of dollars in our community’s economy every year. I think that maybe we don’t recognize that it’s quite as big as it is.”
If you’re considering bringing an event to Brandon, the staff at Brandon Tourism would love to hear from you. They can provide welcome and hospitality packages, set up welcome displays at your event or registration table, as well as ensure your information is shared on the City of Brandon online events calendar, which Tourism operates and populates. They will also promote your event on social media to make sure as many people in Brandon as possible know you’re coming. “Certainly we are here as a resource,” MacDonald concludes, “to make sure [your] event is successful and that all of the attendees are welcomed and have all the information they need about our community.” If you’d like to contact Brandon Tourism at the Riverbank Discovery Centre they can be reached at 1-888-799-1111 or you can visit their website at www.brandontourism.com