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Future of Chinook Country Tourism Centre in jeopardy after loss of funding

The future looks uncertain for the Chinook Country Tourism Information Centre after the city pulled the centre’s funding, which contributed to almost 50 per cent of the organization’s overall budget.

“We will probably close down by next year,” said Nikolaus Wyslouzil, executive director of the centre.

“It’s a big impact because that basic funding from the city allowed us to do a lot of things at no cost.”

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READ MORE: New visitors centre slated for downtown Lethbridge

The city funds that have recently been pulled from the Chinook tourism centre have since been re-distributed to a new downtown location.

Now at a loss for sustaining their organization, the tourism centre is now facing the startling reality of having to close its doors forever, after offering visitor services to the community for more than 40 years.

“It’s disappointing,” Wyslouzil said. “But unfortunately, that’s just the way it’s going at this point.”

The building is privately owned by the centre, but sits on city-owned land.

Located in a prime position next to two major highways, Wyslouzil said the centre usually sees up to 15,000 people accessing services each year.

He said the site is also home to an RV station that’s highly utilized throughout the year, but added the slash to funding this year could prove to have a negative impact on visitor experiences.

“The station for RVs was winterized so it’s open year round, but the outdoor washroom building is closed because it’s not made to be open in wintertime,” Wyslouzil said. “But we were open and so for a lot of people that was really important.”

READ MORE: Lethbridge tourism gets boost as city moves forward with development plan

However, the new downtown location – which has already seen just shy of 6,000 people utilize its services since opening in May – hopes to remedy that problem with the implementation of pop-up tourism kiosks.

“We have plans to create a couple of mobile kiosks,” said William Slenders, executive director of Tourism Lethbridge. “We want to further our reach across the city and enable better interactions all throughout the community with these.”

The Chinook tourism centre will be closing for the season on Sept. 28, a first for the organization as they usually remain open year round.

Staff say the constant shift in digital trends is financially draining, and right now they can’t keep up, which leaves the 2019 season uncertain.

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