It’s easy selling Saskatoon.
Randy Fernets says those representing Tourism Saskatoon can look people in the eye when making a pitch to bring conventions and events to our city.
“When our convention team is out there, we try to sell the quality of life, what you can do in Saskatoon – Meewasin, the university, the craft liquor scene,” said Fernets, who retired this month after 14 years as the director of industry development and sports tourism with the organization.
“We say we have the friendliest people and we do have a different atmosphere. We are a little more laid back and we have the assets.”
But we knew that.
The city has come a long way over the years, with new events popping up on an annual basis.
“Remember way back when we had Pion-Era and the Exhibition? We want to create Saskatoon as a destination because people aren’t coming here to stay in hotel rooms and to look at TVs in hotel rooms. They’re looking for things to do.
“To attract conventions, international and national, we have to have things to do. We have fixed attractions that give us a base, but we also have to have those festivals and events they can attend — things like the Jazz Festival, Taste of Saskatchewan. Our summers are jammed with festivals and events.”
He said during the interview another major event would be announced soon. It turned out to be a world three-on-three basketball competition to be played downtown during Taste of Saskatchewan. It is here for at least three years.
Fernets said Tourism Saskatoon, unlike many similar agencies, has been an advocate for change. Sometimes it is working quietly in the background.
“Whether it’s the new provincial combative commission, food trucks, craft liquor, we have been involved in that, working with government on legislation through the tourism side.”
He credits Tourism Saskatoon president and CEO Todd Brandt for his leadership and vision.
“Todd, thank goodness, let me go on that stuff. We need these things to happen and we need this advocacy.”
Fernets said the city has to keep its eyes on growth.
“Cities that don’t recognize growth fall behind.”
He said a big part of the city’s future will go hand-in-hand with a downtown sports/entertainment facility.
“That is one of the things I will continue to push for. SaskTel Centre can only serve so many people. If you are in the lineups to get there or the lineups to use the washrooms or to get food, you understand why we were so concerned about what is going to happen with that facility.
“It’s going to take time, but I think it needs to be downtown and I think the study will show that, like every study others have done. They need to move it downtown to help rejuvenate the downtown. If they want to see the offices get rented and if they want to see more activity and more people downtown, the downtown sports facility fits that bill.”
What about parking? He hears that all the time.
“If you are in the lineup on Idylwyld going to a Rush game, you know what we’re talking about. You can come early to downtown, you can go to a restaurant, you can leave from that restaurant and there’s lots of parking downtown. It’s just that you can’t run right to the front door. It will be within walking distance for most things.
“What I’ve seen in other centres is they build parkades. During the day the office people have their vehicles in and in the evening the people (using the facility). Even then, people from offices will stay for the activity at the centre. Every city has proven that.”
Fernets said he enjoyed his work at Tourism Saskatoon.
“I’m surrounded by good people,” he said in the days leading up to his retirement. “That’s the main thing that really helped with this job is surrounding yourself with good people and good things happen. That’s the same with volunteers. Without them, these things wouldn’t happen.”
Fernets said he plans to travel and catch up with relatives. He has grandchildren to spoil.
He will spend time at his homes at Blackstrap and in Arizona. He and his wife, Wendy, have a horse operation on 3.5 acres of land, 20 minutes south of Phoenix. They are in the heart of John Wayne country.