Lethbridge organizations agree to mediation following contentious tourism discussion

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Lethbridge organizations agree to mediation following contentious tourism discussion
WATCH: At Wednesday’s economic standing policy committee meeting in Lethbridge, a local organization representing approximately three-quarters of hotels and motels in the city made a presentation stating why it believes Tourism Lethbridge is inefficient and ineffective at its job. Eloise Therien has the details on how the meeting went, and how the information was received by city council. – Oct 19, 2022

The current tourism model in Lethbridge and southern Alberta was front-and-centre in council chambers Wednesday, and while those around the table are no stranger to heated debates, one presentation ruffled some feathers.

Before the Lethbridge Lodging Association (LLA) could take the podium in front of the economic standing policy committee, Coun. Rajko Dodic stepped in to object to their material.

The organization was there to essential lay out why it couldn’t see itself working with Tourism Lethbridge, and why it believed the group was ineffective and inefficient at its job.

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“This is my fourth term on council and this is the first time I’ve seen one organization impugn another organization during the budgeting process,” Dodic said.

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Jason Elliott, director of customer, corporate, and commercial services for the City of Lethbridge, described the current tourism model as “divisive” and “not as successful as it could or should be,” with there being a low level of cooperation and a high level of overlap for events and activities.

“In general we’ve got a great tourism model here in southern Alberta, and one of the keys was that some of our critical partners are working together,” Elliott explained.

“The purpose of today was essentially to bring those partners together, to start to talk about those issues.”

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In the lodging association’s presentation, it said the two organizations had drafted a memorandum of understanding in 2018, but were ultimately never able to come to an agreement.

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“The MOU was accepted by LLA and rejected by the Tourism Lethbridge Governance Committee,” the document read.

It also commented on Tourism Lethbridge’s turnover and lack of “timely and coordinated plans.”

“Hotels who bring in in excess of $2.4 million up to $4 million for the entire industry into the city, it is frustrating when your Tourism Lethbridge… we don’t feel markets effectively, markets efficiently,” LLA presenter Bruce Primeau told Global News.

“Any organization that spends 70 per cent of their revenue, of their city-given monies on labour, doesn’t leave a lot for marketing.”

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Erin Crane, CEO of Tourism Lethbridge, thanked the LLA for its presentation.

“It was very difficult to hear, but I always believe that feedback is the best thing for moving forward and making things better,” Crane said.

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Tourism Lethbridge and the Lethbridge Lodging Association have been directed to go through mediation funded by council, and return to the committee in December with findings on how to best continue.

Crane said she is excited for that work to begin.

“I guess the best-case scenario is that everybody agreed on what the future model could and should look like and there’s commitment to moving that forward,” Elliott added.

“If the end result is something positive as a result of what we’ve done, then obviously everybody benefits and everybody wins,” Primeau said.

“A solid, effective tourism strategy is what’s required.”

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