Reaching out to visitors after the floods

Re-Boot High RiverWhen the floods in Southern Alberta brought devastation to High River two years ago, Dayna Dickens and her team at the High River Visitor Information Centre (VIC) saw an end to their summer work as they knew it. Along with 70 percent of the town, their information centre, located in the Munro Barn, at Sheppard Family Park, was impacted by flood waters. Suddenly, visitors had lost a valuable way to get information about the area’s attractions.

CCTA 2013 finalHigh River is a beautiful town. Nestled in the foothills next to the Rocky Mountains, it has enticed visitors and Hollywood alike. You may know it as the official “Home of Heartland”; the popular television series that has been filming in High River for nine seasons, and fans can peer through the windows of Maggie’s Diner film set. And as the Famous People Famous Places map makes clear, the area has been the backdrop of a number of popular films and television shows over the years, including Fargo, Young Drunk Punk, Haunting Melissa, and Superman 3.

By the summer of 2014, much of High River’s downtown core remained under construction as the town steadily rebuilds itself.  As tourism and business development coordinator for the Town of High River, Dayna felt that a key part of that rebuilding was to find ways for her team to reach out to travellers and show that High River was open for business with plenty of activities and events to offer visitors.

“Visitor Information Centres are often the first real-person point of contact for visitors to a community,” Dayna says. “Travel counsellors are ambassadors to a destination, and they have the opportunity to create a positive and lasting first impression about their community in the minds of their visitors.”

With their original office inaccessible, visitors couldn’t come to them for information. So Dayna decided to bring tourist information to the people. In addition to setting up the VIC in a temporary location in the Bob Snodgrass Recreation Complex, her team began setting up remote VICs at the larger events around town.

All it took was a pop-up tent, a small table, lawn chairs, and a banner sign—supplies that the Town already owned. Not only did staff love getting out into the community, the AVIP– trained travel counsellors were able to reach more people than ever before – with the added bonus of having almost no impact to the overall budget.

Pilots in the ParkDayna credits her team with ideas and suggestions that helped build most of the remote VIC project, which netted the team the 2014 AMMY Award for Innovation in September. With last year’s success, Dayna is looking ahead at what the future delivery of visitor information Services will look like in High River with renewed optimism.

“I love that I get to celebrate and share all of the wonderful stories and experiences this community has to offer with visitors who have never been here before, or who are rediscovering High River.”

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