CTC News

One year on: Signature Experiences Collection® case studies Vol. 2: Royal Canadian Mounted Police Heritage Centre.

The Saskatchewan museum is welcoming increasing numbers of local visitors looking to learn about this living slice of Canadian history.

12 December 2012
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Eyes right! The Mounties are a true Canadian icon and are embedded in our culture. They’ve played a substantial role in creating the Canadian national identity that is recognized the world over.

The Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) is therefore more than happy to salute the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Heritage Centre in Regina, SK, as a fully fledged member of its Signature Experiences Collection® (SEC). The Centre was designed by world-famous Canadian architect Arthur Erickson and opened just over five years ago.

Bianca Currie-Poirier, RCMP Heritage Centre Manager of Programming and Events, calls the shots in this final case study in the second volume of the CTC News series.

For businesses interested in joining SEC, there will be another application window in 2013. Stay tuned to CTC News for more info!

What was the inspiration behind creating the Centre?
There used to be a small group of retired RCMP members as well as volunteers who supported a small museum on the grounds of the RCMP Training Academy “Depot” Division. They had a vision of doing something much greater with all the artifacts in the collection. Through careful planning and fundraising, they leveraged the funds and created the partnerships that made the building of the RCMP Heritage Centre possible. This is now the national centre for telling the RCMP story to Canada and the world. It’s a magnificent building with a great gallery space and it’s still appropriately located on the front lawn of “Depot,” where the story began over 130 years ago. Visitors experience the best of both worlds: a state-of-the-art building with interactive exhibits that tell the story of the RCMP as well as access to the historic grounds of “Depot,” the training academy for all RCMP members that join the force.

What would you say is the biggest challenge facing the Centre today?
The biggest challenge for us is acquiring stable forms of funding. We’re different from other museums in that we don’t receive regular or consistent forms of operating funds from government. This makes us heavily reliant on the money we get from admissions, retail and fundraising.

Tell us more about the “Sunset Retreat Ceremony,” the experience you have that is featured in the Collection.
It’s a public display of dismounted cavalry drills that the sergeant-major puts on with the cadets. It allows a glimpse into what they do in their day-to-day drill training as well as some historical components of parades and ceremonies. There’s lots of pomp and pageantry, of course. The cadets are all dressed in red serge and the drills take place to the sound of regimental music played by the Cadet Band and often accompanied at some point by cannon fire. Just this past season, “Depot” added a pre-show to showcase other subject matter related to the force. The last Sunset Retreat Ceremony that I attended included a display by the Police Dog Services, which was a great crowd pleaser.

The ceremony is held on the parade square at “Depot” every Tuesday evening starting the first week of July and ends sometime in mid August.  Because of our close proximity, we can provide interpretative tours for visitors who want to go on to “Depot” and experience this close-of-day ceremony.

How are you promoting your membership?
We have done a series of media interviews and we issued a media advisory at the start of our membership. We do work very closely with “Depot” and the Regina Regional Opportunities Commission to take advantage of opportunities to promote our membership.

Early days yet as the program’s only a year old, but what’s changed for your business as a result of being a member?
There’s definitely greater awareness out there. A month or so ago we held a substantial media and partner FAM [familiarization] event where we highlighted the Collection and our membership. It was really well received and people are still talking about it. Locally, there seems to be a renewed interest in what’s happening at the Centre as well as live events over at “Depot.” The Sunset Retreat Ceremony is not new. “Depot” has been hosting it for a number of years. If anything, being a part of the SEC has helped raise awareness of all of our products and programs, as well as partnerships with “Depot.”

Regional and provincial tourism partners are also promoting our membership to tour operators and travel media. Lately we’ve been holding quite a few VIP tours so that tour operators and travel writers can fully appreciate not just the SEC event, but the story behind it and other products that we offer. We feel lucky to be part of such a prestigious collection of tourism experiences. It has certainly helped to raise our profile. It’s a nice feather in our cap.

Are you getting visitors from any new international markets or greater numbers from existing ones? 
So far this year, international numbers are down, but the season isn’t over yet. On the plus side, however, local and regional numbers appear to be up.

Has your media exposure changed domestically or internationally as a result of being a SEC member?
Not yet, because we’re still following the same media buys planned from last year. Earned media, as of late, has been fairly local and has not been picking up on our membership, but we recently found ourselves mentioned in the UK’s Travel Trade Gazette as a direct result of our SEC membership.

Have you considered exploring business relationships or cross-promotions with other SEC members?
It has come up in conversations, especially at Rendez-vous Canada, and we are definitely interested in cross-promoting with other SEC members. It would be a missed opportunity not to.

What’s been your biggest lesson this year as a tourism operator?
There are a lot of factors, like the economy, that are out of our control. We’ve welcomed more regional visitation this year, from Alberta and Manitoba and internationally from closer-to-home places like North Dakota, US. We’re more aware of who the key players are who can help promote Saskatchewan as a prime destination, not just a place to stop on the way to somewhere bigger. We’re also becoming more aware of what our role could be in helping to develop tourism for our region and province.

And we value local support: we’re making every effort to support our local community by offering products and programs for the “staycationer.”

What are some of the challenges facing Canada’s tourism industry?
Canada is so large geographically, so diverse culturally and, despite being a  new country, has a deep and rich history that changes significantly in story line as you move from east to west. Plainly put, there are too many options to experience! How do you package experiences so that people don’t get overwhelmed with the choices? What is a truly “Canadian” experience?

The other major issue facing tourism would be troubled international economies and the fierce competition from other countries wishing to attract our potential visitors.

What might a big opportunity for Canada’s tourism industry look like?
One of our greatest challenges is also one of our greatest strengths. Canada has a lot to offer visitors. We need to show potential visitors how much there is to choose from and we need to do it in a way that doesn’t overwhelm the consumer.

 

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