Downtown marketing campaign was a good investment, councilor says

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The city’s efforts to bring people back downtown to support businesses in the wake of the pandemic upheaval are having a positive effect, but there is still work to be done, a city committee heard Tuesday.

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The council’s business advisory committee received an update from the administration on a host of projects implemented by this committee, which included attempts to cut red tape and make the city more business-friendly.

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Among the strategies was lowering parking rates in the city center. The administration noted that it could not offer lower fares on weekdays because it might discourage people from walking or taking public transport, but targeted campaigns have been launched on some underused land and on land just off Center Street in Chinatown.

Another downtown initiative was a seven-week summer marketing campaign called Experience Downtown YYC, which came with a prize of $70,000.

This campaign ran advertisements online, on digital billboards, on radio stations and in print. The Council learned that it had received more than 57.3 million impressions of online advertisements.

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Committee chair Sonya Sharp said it was a better result than expected.

“It’s a great result or return on investment,” said Sharp, who said she would encourage the administration to run a similar campaign in the future.

The Ward 1 councilor said downtown businesses, including Beltline and East Village, are still struggling, and she thinks the message needs to be heard by more Calgarians, especially as the season nears. holiday shopping.

She said something as simple as having lunch or coffee can help.

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“These are really important things to make sure we can help keep the doors open for the business world,” she said.

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Mark Garner, executive director of the Calgary Downtown Association, said his organization saw things start to look up around Canada Day and certainly around the Stampede, but things are still not what they were before. the pandemic.

He said the evolution of working from home has hampered downtown businesses.

“They’re only working X days a week, and we need everyone back downtown because the way downtown is currently designed is really around this nine-to-five economy,” Garner said. .

He said anecdotally that he saw food courts busy again on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but not on Fridays.

CDA hopes festivals can help fill the void left by people working from home. The city is hosting its third downtown Chinook Blast festival this winter.

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The perception of downtown safety is another big draw in attracting people, Garner said. The committee heard about the city’s strategies to help the homeless population and improve safety around Calgary Transit downtown.

Garner said CDA expects to get more provincial funding for downtown destination marketing soon. He said work is also underway on better data collection that will help show where foot traffic is at certain times of day and how much each visitor is spending.

“I think we’re in a good place and we’re starting to see the proper economy coming back,” he said. “These kinds of programs, these ongoing investments that the city and CDA have made, we need to make those for the next year or two until we get back to the economy we once had.”

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William L. Hart