Two Canmore organizations in charge of tourism and economic development are joining forces.
Canmore Economic Development Authority and Tourism Canmore Kananaskis were in front of council last month for approval to merge together for a trial period until the end of the year.
The merger, which both CEDA executive director Teresa Mullen and TCK president Andrew Nickerson hope becomes permanent, began with the combination of economic development and tourism strategies accepted last year into one document.
That strategy set out an organizational review for both, along with the opportunity to examine the way funding is provided to TCK through CEDA from the business registry.
“There is no question this is with a view for a permanent merger,” Nickerson said. “You can’t do this work in (isolation), you need a holistic approach.”
Gary Buxton, manager of planning for the Town, said the two organizations are somewhat different, but economic development and tourism development are not entirely separate.
“As we develop the economic development and tourism strategy, these areas of crossover have become increasingly apparent,” Buxton told council.
The goal is to produce a more efficient and positive organization and a meeting with council in September will review what the two are able to accomplish together.
Mullen said the merger is not as simple as bolting together the two groups, as new opportunities are created and can also be addressed and action items from the economic development and tourism strategy undertaken without duplication.
“Nothing gets lost in the new organization; in fact, things get added which makes it much more efficient,” she said, adding duplication in administrative duties will also be addressed.
For example, a recently held even symposium recognized major events are a benefit to the community, but what was missing is determining which organization addresses that area and who pays for it.
Under the new vision model for the merged organization, Nickerson said that is considered.
In addition to new roles, flexibility to respond to issues and opportunities that arise, Mullen said the change allows for better communication.
“One of the biggest benefits we saw was one voice, one message,” she said. “That will be really important as we launch the community branding project.”
Both TCK and CEDA’s boards of directors unanimously accepted the move to joint operations as did town council.
Nickerson said strategic changes to TCK’s organizational structure and hiring of key positions this year meant it is able to support the merger.
The destination marketing organization, he said, is now more of a destination management organization able to address planning and policy, not just marketing Canmore.
“There may be some concern tourism is taking over and economic development and diversification forgotten about, but that is very clearly included in the mandate,” Nickerson said, adding tourism has spinoff potentials for economic development.
All this is with recognition that what makes Canmore a draw for visitors is its sense of community.
Mullen said by including businesses in the development of tourism marketing with a merged organization it can ensure those efforts remain true to what the community values – authenticity.
The next step for the merged organization is establishing funding and governance models to make the change permanent.