Tourism award nominations show how much southwest has grown

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Not so recently, southwest Saskatchewan, wasn’t necessarily seen as a prime tourist spot. The southwest tourism industry has grown exponentially in the last few years and a lot of people are taking notice.

Three southwest Saskatchewan representatives were part of Tourism Saskatchewan’s announcement last week of 43 finalists for its Saskatchewan Tourism Awards of Excellence for 2013.
More than 100 nominations were received in the 15 award categories.
Cypress Hills Eco-Adventures and its operator Jori Kirk were nominated three times including Business of the Year (Under 50 employees);
Service Excellence Award (Business); and the On Line Marketing Award (@zipcypresshills).
Kirk was away in Whitefish, Montana and was unavailable for comment.
Also nominated was Shann Gowan. Her Windscape Kite Festival is up for Event of the Year (Budget over $20,000) and personally she is up for the Fred Heal Tourism Ambassador Award for Cultural Festivals.
Another nominee was the Harvest Eatery in Shaunavon which is up for Rookie of the Year Award.
It has been quite an inaugural year for the eatery and owners Kristy and Garrett “Rusty” Thienes.
A highly-trained and highly-skilled chef, Garrett has made a name for himself. He was surprised to be up for a Saskatchewan Tourism Award, but he’ll take it.
“We’re absolutely thrilled,” says Garrett.
They receive a lot of positive feedback from travellers who will venture long distances just to eat in their 40-seat facility and fresh market.
“We love what we’re doing here and what we’re accomplishing. Even if without the nomination, it wouldn’t have taken away what this past year has done for us success-wise.”
The popularity of the restaurant has risen quickly and they were a featured spot on national television with Global Television’s
The Prairie Diner.
Thienes has been a chef for 16 years and has learned a lot and developed his own signature dishes. One attitude he had early on was that people in the southwest want something rather than just traditional  fare. Instead of a run-of-the-mill burger, perhaps someone wants beef tartare, or steelhead trout or a special pickerel dish.
“People are hungry for new experience and are looking for new dishes,” explains Thienes who notes hose people in a smaller centre like excellent food as much as people in big centres. “We’re taking that urban mentality of dining and just applying into a rural center. People
are willing to go anywhere for a great dining experience.”
And they have as the Harvest Eatery is busy. Thienes adds while he’s enjoying the success, they see themselves as a part of a regional neighbourhood. They have seen a “spike in local traffic” because of all the tourism destinations including the arts programs and sites in Eastend and Shaunavon, stops in Maple Creek and the Cypress Hills area.
He sees the Harvest as just another part of the whole southwest experience.
They are using social media a lot. Thienes says there is a lot of compliments that get posted from those who eat there and notes he takes it seriously. The 24/7 judging forces him to be at his best with every dish he makes. Thienes says with social media and marketing he follows what a relative told him once in general: “if you’re not onboard, you’re going to get run over by the bus.”
The award finalists and recipients will be honoured at the 25th annual Saskatchewan Tourism Awards of Excellence Gala celebrated April 10 at TCU Place in Saskatoon.
The recipient of the Chairman’s Lifetime Achievement Award will also be announced.

The 2013 Saskatchewan Tourism Awards of Excellence nominees are:
Business of the Year Award (Over 50 Full-time Employees): Manitou Springs Resort and Mineral Spa, Manitou Beach; Radisson Hotel Saskatoon, Saskatoon; Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, Saskatoon.
Business of the Year Award (Under 50 Full-time Employees): Cypress Hills Eco-Adventures Ltd., Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park; Gold Eagle Lodge, North Battleford; RCMP Heritage Centre, Regina.
Event of the Year Award (Budget Over $20,000): 101st Grey Cup Festival, Regina; 2013 JUNO Awards, Regina/Moose Jaw; Windscape Kite Festival, Swift Current.
Event of the Year Award (Budget Under $20,000): Holiday Bazaart, Regina; Saskatchewan Stitches Conference, Humboldt; St. Walburg Wild Blueberry Festival, St. Walburg.
Fred Heal Tourism Ambassador Award: Shann Gowan, Cultural Festivals, Swift Current; Cheryl Hughes, Women on the Go Tours, Balcarres; Gord Vaadeland, Sturgeon River Ranch, Big River.
Gil Carduner Marketing Award (Budget Over $20,000): Canadian Western Agribition – Food, Shopping, Fun – Agribition is for Everyone, Regina; Table Mountain Regional Park, North Battleford; Tourism Saskatoon, Saskatoon Experience Pass, Saskatoon.
Gil Carduner Marketing Award (Budget Under $20,000): Regina Regional Opportunities Commission – Tourism Regina Launch, Regina; Town of Nipawin, Nipawin; Waskesiu & Area Wilderness Region – Think Again, Waskesiu Lake.
Human Resources Development Award: Hilton Garden Inn, Saskatoon; SaskGaming, Regina; Travelodge Hotel, Saskatoon.
Land of Living Skies Award: Meewasin Valley Authority, Saskatoon; Sundogs Excursions, Anglin Lake; Wanuskewin Heritage Park, Saskatoon.
Online Marketing Award: Cypress Hills Eco-Adventure Ltd., Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park; SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival, Saskatoon; Wanuskewin Heritage Park, Saskatoon.
Rookie of the Year Award: Harvest Eatery & Fresh Market, Shaunavon; North Country Bed & Breakfast, Hudson Bay; Women on the Go Tours, Balcarres.
Service Excellence Award (Business): Adventure Destinations International, Saskatoon; Cypress Hills Eco-Adventure Ltd., Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park; Radisson Plaza Hotel Saskatchewan, Regina; Waskesiu Marina Adventure Centre, Waskesiu Lake.
Service Excellence Award (Individual): Jenn Brunning, Elk Ridge Resort, Waskesiu Lake; Rose-Marie Carey, Batoche National Historic Site, Batoche; Tony Prytula, Hilton Garden Inn, Saskatoon
Travel Media Award: Global Regina – Focus Saskatchewan, Regina; Habeeb Salloum, Toronto, ON; Jenn Smith Nelson, Regina.

via SW Sask News – Prairie Post – Prairie Post

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