City council has approved a motion that will shift tourism responsibilities to Regina Exhibition Association Limited (REAL).

Tourism Regina used to fall under Economic Development Regina (EDR).

“The entity that is Tourism Regina will continue to exist, the staff will continue to operate the way they already have, but from a leadership perspective the focus of tourism will be paired with the municipal corporation that is REAL,” said Tim Reid, REAL president and CEO.

REAL represents roughly 73 per cent of the tourism market in the city, according to financial reports from 2019.

The city-owned-and-operated organization will now be responsible for expanding events, marketing and tourism outside its 103-acre lot to the entire city.

“Before our job was just to fill our arenas,” Reid said.

“Our job now is to support the entire economy within the city. So it doesn’t stop at fill the arenas. Now it stops at fill the arenas, support local businesses and make sure that visitors in our cities are connected with things happening at REAL.”

REAL’s equipment, infrastructure and 500-plus staff members will now be available to help support events that happen off-site, including Shake the Lake and the Regina Folk Festival, Reid said.

The new agreement could also allow REAL to move some of its events to different venues, such as the Delta Hotel, if it is more appropriate.

Regina mayor Sandra Masters said the transition will create efficiencies and give Tourism Regina the resources it needs to expand promotions.

“Tourism perhaps doesn’t have the people to execute on producing festivals or creating initiatives—they are a staff of six or seven,” she said.

“It just makes a whole bunch of sense to leverage the community entity … that has the resources and the skill sets involved and actually create space for a new CEO at EDR to really go after the recruitment and investment here into the city.”

EDR will now strictly focus on business attraction, development and growth in the city.

“We will tell the city’s story and position Regina as the most competitive place in Western Canada to bring business, to bring investment dollars and to bring people,” said EDR CEO Chris Lane.

The city consulted EDR, REAL and both the Warehouse and Downtown Districts before the decision, according to the mayor.

Conexus Arts Centre CEO Neil Donnelly said the change comes as a surprise to many stakeholders, adding he is hopeful REAL will continue to offer support. However, he said he is waiting to see the proof.

Masters, on the other hand, said there will be city oversight to ensure REAL keeps up its end of the deal.

“REAL now has a responsibility for the entire city and are accountable to city council,” Masters said. “As they’ve always been for that promotion.”