CFDC boasts record numbers

Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre Executive Director Peter Cantelon, pictured in front of the Allosaurus exhibit, spoke about a record year.

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The Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre released their numbers Jan. 2, showing another year to year increase.
A total of 15,243 people paid to get into the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre in 2018, crushing the previous years record of 12,854.
In fact 2018 represents the third year of record attendance in the past four years for the museum which has seen attendance grow by 26 per cent since 2015 and 131 per cent since 2013.
Executive Director Peter Cantelon said they were happy about the numbers, but admitted they weren’t expecting to break records earlier in the year.
“We didn’t know until about the last half of the year that we were starting to trend better than 2017,” he said. “In fact, the first six months of 2018 we were trailing 2017, just by a little.”
It was in summer when they noticed their numbers were well beyond their typical growth.
There were several reasons for the growth.
Cantelon said their focussed approach to marketing has paid off.
“In 2013 we focussed on the Winnipeg market,” he said. “That’s the largest demographic within driving distance of the CFDC by a huge margin. Almost ever visitor from outside of Manitoba comes in through Winnipeg.”
Working with Travel Manitoba was key to their larger visibility.
But Cantelon said they’re also doing more things to attract repeat visitors.
“We make sure we put in two to four new exhibits every single year, we’re rotating content,” he said. “We have a policy now that states every new exhibit must have an interactive element to it so it keeps people here longer, it gets them more involved.”
That policy will continue in 2019 which will see new French language audio for the CFDC’s digital audio guide mobile app, a whole new marine reptile to build in the CFDC’s Fossil Discovery Adventure app, as well as the launch of live remote guided tours of the museum for remote classrooms and communities.
“We are especially excited for the live guided tours,” Cantelon said. “We wanted to make sure remote northern and indigenous students had the opportunities others have had and so we developed an innovative live and interactive guided tour of the facility.”
About 10 per cent of visitors come from the immediate area (Morden and Winkler), and many come from around the world.
In 2018 CFDC had visitors from 44 countries representing every continent (except Antarctica). They also came from 35 U.S. States, every Canadian province and one Canadian territory.
Great weather also helped CFDC host visitors. “I don’t think last summer we had a single dig rained out,” Cantelon said.
Most of their visitors come to Morden for the purpose of touring the museum. But Cantelon said there are times, such as during the Corn & Apple Festival when CFDC benefits as well.
“(During Corn & Apple) we’re a sidebar, a second thing for people to do,” he said. “This past Corn and Apple we had 1,400 visitors and I would say the majority of them would’ve been here specifically for Corn and Apple.”
The museum is also seeing higher attendance at their summer day camp, the newly added winter break day camp and spring break day camp, and is also hosting more birthday parties.
New facility?
Growth may be slow in the future, until a new facility can be built.
“I think that with this particular facility we’ve maxed it out, so growth that we’re seeing for the time being is going to be directly tied to tourism growth in the province,” he said.
He added, that it’s exciting to think of the possibilities in a new space.
“Our potential in a new facility should be somewhere in the 60,000 to 80,000 per year range, and that’s a conservative estimate,” he said. “(The numbers) are based on a lot of research on the population base in which we exist as well as a comparative study with the Royal Tyrrell Museum.”
The dream will require cooperation from every level of government, but Cantelon said they are working towards a plan.
“We are now actively working to get a new standalone facility,” he said.
He urged local people who haven’t been to the museum in recent years to check it out.
“This places changes every year now,” he said. “Every time you go in there’s something different.”
For more information go to discoverfossils.com

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