It's been a welcoming sight for many years, but it will soon be history.
City council has approved a tourism promotion plan that will close the Brewery Hill visitors' information office after this summer. The A-frame structure was built when Brewery Hill was the main route into the city from the west - and when Molson Brewery nurtured a famous rock garden on the nearby hill.
Instead, the Chinook Country Tourist Association will redirect the $35,000 spent on the seasonal location into more social media applications and more visitor information technology. Visitor numbers at the downtown site have been falling, council learned, with Chinook Country reaching far more travellers today through Internet-based sites.
Nikolaus Wyslouzil, executive director for Chinook Country, told council Monday the agency's year-round site, at Mayor Magrath Drive and Scenic Drive S., will continue to offer one-on-one information for people who drop in. Many of them, he added, are local residents looking for information on attractions they'll be showing to friends and relatives who visit the city.
While so much information is available online today, he added, many people still want maps, guide books and other printed materials. At the same time, they can use the visitor centre's picnic tables, washrooms and other facilities.
Today's tourism trends, Wyslouzil said, include shorter visits - and online searches to find the best value for the dollar. As many as 85 per cent of visitors continue their search for activities and attractions once they reach their destination, typically using "apps" on the Internet.
Lorna Kurio, the city's customer liaison for economic development, brought council details of a new fee-for-service contract with Chinook Country covering the next five years. It provides $238,954 per year, in addition to membership fees paid by visitor and hospitality industry businesses that join Chinook.
The non-profit group's board has approved the new service plan, she reported. It includes a shortened season, mid-May to the end of September, at the Brewery Hill site this year. Signs will also be posted directing travellers to the southside location - or the Internet - for information during future visits.
While the building could be used temporarily for storage, council was told Chinook Country hopes to see it sold and moved away eventually.
Councillor Faron Ellis recommended council accept the new plan and approve the funding.
"This is a reasonable business transition plan," he said.
Council also heard a presentation from the Canadian Badlands tourism partnership, encompassing southern Alberta and communities as far north as Drumheller. Bob Davis, its executive director explained its role was to facilitate planning and fund development for tourism and hospitality facilities.
Apart from helping the city qualify for a "public realm and transportation" study grant worth nearly $400,000, he said the organization has also helped improve visitor facilities in Coutts, Milk River and Stirling recently.
It's now assisting Fort Whoop-Up with a new highway signage scheme, he added.