By Matthew Liebenberg
The new CEO of Tourism Swift Current has a lifelong passion for the area that she wants to share with visitors in her new role.
Rebecca Anderson has been in the position since Aug. 1 and is enthusiastic about her task to promote it as an attractive destination.
“I’ve always been passionate about this area of the province,” she said. “I’ve lived here for all but seven years of my life.”
She feels her varied work experience gives her different perspectives about the area and it actually prepared her for this role with Tourism Swift Current.
“It as almost like all of the positions that I had previous to this gave me experience or taught me lessons that were going to contribute to me in being this,” she said. “I’ve worked in child care, I’ve worked with people with cognitive disabilities and I’ve worked with newcomers to the area. With all of those groups, I found ways to share my passion and my love of this area with them, and I have also been able to see everything that is in this region through their eyes and through a different perspective.”
She was the program director for the early learning centre in Hazlet and the community program coordinator at Southwest Homes in Swift Current. She most recently worked at the Southwest Newcomer Welcome Centre, initially as a settlement worker in schools and then as the community connections worker. She is currently the board chair of the South West District for Culture, Recreation, and Sport as well as the president of Lii Bufloo Métis Local #35.
“Every organization I’ve ever worked for is a non-profit,” she noted. “So I’m very familiar with that style of organization and what is involved in it.”
She is excited about her new position and has done a lot of learning in the initial weeks about the tourism industry and the function of Tourism Swift Current as a destination marketing organization.
“I understood aspects of it, but some of the learning that I’m doing about tourism as an industry and how big of an industry it is, that’s been a little bit surprising for me,” she said.
She therefore feels it is important from the perspective of Tourism Swift Current and local tourism to find ways to really take advantage of the industry and to make it work for the community.
Lee Friesen was the CEO of Tourism Swift Current for 20 years, but he decided to step away. The announcement of Anderson’s appointment on the Tourism Swift Current Facebook page indicated that Friesen is not retiring and he will continue to remain involved with tourism. He has been available to share information with Anderson as she gets more familiar with her role.
“He has been very helpful at just sharing knowledge and helping me along the way with that transition,” she said. “So that has been really good. And also Jackie Moore with our visitor services. She’s been with the organization for many years as well and has so much knowledge and history, and she has the documentation for all of it. So that’s been really helpful for me too.”
Anderson appreciates the warm welcome she received since she stepped into her role at Tourism Swift Current.
“They were really excited and have made me feel so welcome and have made me feel so valuable already to the organization,” she said. “So that’s been great.”
She received a similar response at events she attended in the community since the announcement of her appointment as CEO.
“I’ve had so many people coming up to me or reaching out through social media and congratulating me on the role,” she said. “So just a thank you to everyone in the community that has been so welcoming.”
Tourism Swift Current is a non-profit, membership-based organization with a governing board. One of her immediate goals is to connect with members. There are currently 101 members and she began visiting them in mid-August.
“I’m finding that people are just so excited to talk face to face when the opportunity comes up and the conversations have been great,” she said. “I’ve already got pages of notes from my conversations with our members. I’m just really trying to get a feel for what these businesses are finding is working well for them, what they value as being a member of Tourism Swift Current and what they’d like to get out of that membership moving forward.”
The organization’s goal as a destination marketing organization is to promote and facilitate tourism in Swift Current and the southwest region.
“The big emphasis for Tourism Swift Current is to promote and support our members,” she said. “Our membership is made up of a variety of organizations that are within Swift Current and even some outside. So when they’re doing events, if you follow our Facebook page, our Instagram or our website, we’re always trying to update that with the events that our membership specifically are going to be offering.”
The activities of Tourism Swift Current are funded through membership fees, a sign corridor as well as municipal and other grants. One of her goals is to look at other ways of generating revenue.
“As a non-profit, you don’t want to be making a whole bunch of money, but you still need to generate revenues and funds to be able to do more and more,” she said.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the tourism industry in Canada and federal funding was made available through the Tourism Relief Fund for projects focused on project and destination development. Tourism Swift Current used some of the relief funding it received to develop a sustainability plan. Anderson will be focusing on the plan’s details as well as the implementation.
“The finalization of that and implementation are things that are going to be worked on moving forward,” she said. “I’m excited to work with the board on what the action plan for that is going to be and what are we going to prioritize to get done first. There’s a lot to do and anyone who has been involved with me in the past will know that I always have lots of ideas. So there’s not going to be a shortage of ideas. It’s going to be more about how do we condense this into actual things that we can implement and start moving forward step by step. Everything can’t happen at once. It’s going to be a progression, but I’m excited.”