Life has seemingly returned to normal this summer, after two years of pandemic stops and starts, but event and festival organizers in Saskatchewan say they aren’t seeing attendance rates jump the way they had hoped.
“We all thought after the pandemic began to end last year and audiences came back – Shakespeare had one show and it was really well attended – we thought that would continue,” said Yvette Nolan, Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan co-curator. “But this year, you know, were not recovering.”
Other organizers in the province feel the same.
“Bounce back? I don’t know if that is something that anybody is going to be able to do,” said Josh Haugerud, Regina Folk Festival executive director. “The way that festivals operated in 2019 versus now is night and day.”
Haugerud said expenses have increased and some of their suppliers have gone out of business, including their stage supplier. He says there are still a lot of challenges that were not there before the pandemic.
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Discover Saskatoon believes the pandemic has forever changed the way the industry works.
“What we are looking at now, recovery in tourism is looking to be 2024 to 2026,” said Sarah Berger, Discover Saskatoon director of marketing and communications. “Best case scenario were going to see some recovery back to pre-pandemic levels in ’24.”
Berger said when looking at the industry in Saskatchewan, the focus must be on bringing people back to work, having events in communities across the province and creating tourism experiences.
“As we re-build the tourism industry in Saskatoon and Saskatchewan, we need to adapt and we need to re-build the industry in a more sustainable way. We also understand that consumers are looking for more meaningful experiences, transformational experiences, where they learn and grow.”
Berger said more than ever the industry needs to support local, leaving room for businesses to re-build and hopefully creating a better economy overall.
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