News Local

Portage benefits from Plan 96/4

By Brian Oliver, The Graphic



Portage la Prairie has become just the third community in the province to benefit from a tourism rebranding initiative led by Travel Manitoba.

The Island on the Prairies – the new brand uniquely associated with Portage – was publicly unveiled Wednesday evening as part of a province-wide endeavour undertaken by Travel Manitoba and the province in an effort to reap the rewards of the ever-growing tourism industry. 

“We have a significant number of millions of dollars invested into the golf course and the fair grounds and Stride Place and Splash Island that a lot of communities don't have and they're going to come spend money here,” says Vern May, chair of the Island on the Prairies tourism initiative. “We need to do a better job of marketing that.”

After rebranding Wasagaming – now known as 'Clear Lake Country' - and Gimli, Travel Manitoba targeted the City of Possibilities as it's next project using funds gained from Plan 96/4. The plan is a performance-based model developed by Travel Manitoba and adopted by the Manitoba government that is said to have great potential to increase tourism revenues while also delivering additional tax revenues to the province for such things like healthcare, education and infrastructure.

Travel Manitoba handled the analytics in terms of identifying money spent on tourism in the central region, where those visitors are coming from and the top attractions that they're in search of and provided that information to the Island on the Prairies group along with funding the creation of the new logo.

The logo incorporates many things that are unique to Portage la Prairie like the Crescent Lake, a sun – making reference to Portage being the sunniest community in Canada, and colours that signify both the cultural diversity and agricultural diversity of the region.

“We are the only community in Manitoba with it's own Island and that is a feature that is unique,” adds May. “While the logo speaks directly to a very specific geographical feature in the city, from a tourism marketing perspective, we have to look at are whole RM as the island that people need to rediscover.”

Admittedly, May points to the challenge of getting commuters off the bypass and into the city, and believes this is a necessary step in getting not only outside visitors, but citizens of Portage to realize the unique amenities that are offered.

“We're only 12 km from Delta Beach, when you're travelling on the Trans Canada Highway, you have no idea you're that close,” he adds.

Now that Travel Manitoba has provided the tools to sculpt the marble, the rest is up to the Island on the Prairies committee, and thanks to cutbacks in the operating costs of Portage Regional Economic Development (PRED), $30,000 in funding has been approved for the pilot project to roll out the new brand for 2018.

“We already found some efficiencies in the 2017 budget and we've been able to tighten it up even further,” adds May, who also oversees the economic development of the region. “(We) recognize that some of the marketing we're doing with PRED would overlap, so we are able to reallocate some of that funding.”

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