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City of Regina agrees to take over tourism responsibilities from REAL

Tourism responsibilities will once again belong to the City of Regina after council approved a request from the Regina Exhibition Association Limited (REAL) to hand over the reins.

“There’s still lots to do still,” said City Manager Niki Anderson.

Council voted 9-0 in favour of taking back tourism responsibilities during its regular meeting Wednesday, with the transferring of duties expected to take place at the start of 2024.

“I want to see tourism be successful,” said Ward 1 coun. Cheryl Stadnichuk.

REAL announced that it had made the request on Nov. 3 citing unanimous agreement from its board to request the transfer.

REAL also said it wants to solely focus on operations and facilities on its property.

The organization received worldwide backlash following a rebrand of the city’s tourism website to “Experience Regina” which included several slogans playing on the fact that the city’s name rhymes with vagina.

“[It] was a failure,” said REAL board member Ahmed Malik. “The launch fell short of the standards our board and organization does, and should, hold itself to.”

CEO Tim Reid was at council Wednesday but remained in the gallery and did address or take questions from councillors.

“The rebrand eroded the trust the city has [in us] and we have to rebuild that trust,” Malik said.

REAL took over tourism operations from Economic Development Regina (EDR) in June 2022.

“When the decision was made to move REAL from EDR, I don’t think we had all the information that we needed,” Stadnichuk said.

The city has increased its funding for REAL operations over $1.6 million since it took over tourism in 2022.

In 2021, the city budgets $400,000 which increased to $1.1 million when tourism was transferred from EDR.

REAL’s budget was $2.01 million this year.

“Do we know how much [they] have left in their tourism envelope?” asked ward 7 coun. Terina Nelson.

“Not off the top of my head,” responded Anderson. “You’re getting their 2024 budget on Friday.”

Council also granted REAL the ability to increase its line of credit in May. It remains to be seen how the removal of tourism will impact funding.

Ward 8 coun. Shannon Zachidniak asked REAL board members if anyone in the organization should be held accountable by losing their job.

“This is an opportunity for [REAL] to be better and we are committed to be being better,” Malik responded. “I don’t believe firing anyone will necessarily make us a better organization.”

She also asked the city manager about further investigations in the Experience Regina ‘debacle’.

“Would the transfer hinder [that ability],” Zachidniak asked.

“It doesn’t change the history,” Anderson responded. “I don’t see any reason why it would strengthen the ability [for REAL] to shed any responsibility.”

Regina Mayor Sandra Masters joined CTV Morning Live Saskatchewan on Thursday and said the city should own its own brand.

“We thought we had more capacity there with personnel, I think with the mistakes that were made and the review of the Cuff report to which happened I think that the City of Regina should own the City of Regina brand,” Masters said.

Anderson said the city is prepared to take over tourism and the duties that come with it.

“The transition will be done with care and collaboratively,” she said. “What I want in my city as a resident is also want I want in my city as a visitor.”

Masters said until the official transfer in the new year there will be collaboration between the city and REAL in regards to the move.

City administration will bring a progress report back to council as part of 2025-26 budget deliberations on how the transition is enacted. Top Stories

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