Moosomin and other local communities, such as Rocanville, may be the newest destinations for Women On The Go Tours, a tour company that takes women on day trips from Regina to rural Saskatchewan communities to shop, dine and take in rural events.
Cheryl Hughes, the owner and operator of Women On The Go Tours, spoke at the Moosomin Chamber of Commerce meeting on Tuesday after taking a tour of some local businesses in Moosomin accompanied by Teddi Taylor, the town council member responsible for tourism, and Kevin Weedmark of the Moosomin Chamber of Commerce.
Hughes said she was impressed with Moosomin.
“Moosomin has wowed me,” she said. “I love what you are doing.”
Hughes explained how the tours—originally called Women on Wheels—got started.
“Women on Wheels was a concept created by some business women brainstorming on how to get women to their rural communities to shop in their local businesses,” she said. “They started bringing women out of Regina to Montmartre, Kipling, Carlyle, and Wawota. And that just grew so much that it got to the point where they needed someone to take it over.”
Hughes was approached about taking over the tours, and after some thought she agreed. Despite growing up and living in rural Saskatchewan herself, she says she has learned a lot about rural Saskatchewan.
“At times I am incredibly amazed and incredibly embarrassed about how little I know about Saskatchewan and amazed at what a great place we are,” she said. “Moosomin has moved to the top of my list as one of the amazing places.”
Hughes says in September of this year it will be five years since she decided to take on Women On The Go and she’s glad she did.
“It’s been win-win,” she said. “Women On The Go has given me the opportunity to take some things off my Saskatchewan bucket list.”
Hughes explained that the year she took over the tours, it was decided to do a Christmas shopping tour with six buses over two weekends. She says it took just over two and half hours to sell out all six buses, and she realized then that the tours were on the right track.
“It proved to me right there on the spot that this is something women are looking for and since then we’ve just grown,” she said.
Hughes said the impact of the tours on rural businesses has been tremendous.
“In 2015 I made a real effort to track what we were doing. Even I was blown away,” she said. “We had over 840 guests join us on 20 adventures. We covered over 10,000 kilometres of Saskatchewan, and when I figured out as best I could, our economic impact was well over $200,000 in the communities that we visited.”
Hughes said that year the tour company was awarded the Fred Heal Tourism Ambassador Award from Tourism Saskatchewan.
Hughes explained to Chamber members that the two main tours are the Christmas shopping tour and an annual spring fling, however she says she does smaller tours as well, and custom tours for groups that want them.
Businesses are charged a small fee for being a stop on the tour, and Hughes said the fee covers some of the costs of putting on the tour, such as passports that are printed out for the women with information on the businesses they are visiting that day. Businesses are encouraged to have specials that day or donate prizes for draws or giveaway small gift items or serve food and drinks as they host the women. The tours usually include lunch and/or supper in the towns they are visiting as well.
Hughes says women come from far and wide to be on the tours.
“Women come from all over the province. They will drive two days to come to Regina to get on a bus, they will come from out of province, and we have had a lot of women become best friends because they’ve been on tours together.”
She said the impact of the tours on rural businesses lasts after the tour is over, with many of the women returning to shop in the communities at a later date or telling their friends or family about the stores they visit.
“It’s about giving women a shopping experience they are going to go home and tell their friends and coworkers about,” she said.
“It’s a win win. Women love to go out and have fun with friends and family and shop, and in return they are helping to support local Saskatchewan communities.”
There were lots of questions from Chamber members after Hughes’ presentation.
Hughes was asked what times the tours run from and to. She said they typically leave Regina at 8 am and try to be back by 10 pm, and include lunch and supper.
She was asked if Moosomin would take a whole day or if other communities would be incorporated, and she said it would be nice to combine other towns in the area. A number of people from Rocanville were at the meeting and pointed out that Rocanville is only 15 minutes away, and a number of chamber members agreed Rocanville would be a good stop.
Hughes was also asked how many women are on each tour. She said the busses hold 54 tourists and tours can range from 40 to 54. She said in their experience the tours work better when planned close to a weekend or on a weekend. She also said the tours can be on a tight schedule but can be customized as well. During the Christmas shopping tours, she said women would shop at 12-14 businesses in one day, as well as include two meals, making for a tight schedule.
A number of chamber members raised the idea of tying a tour in the Moosomin area in with a local trade show and visiting some of the local greenhouses as well.
One business owner asked how a small store can accommodate so many shoppers and Hughes said they try not to have all the women shopping in one store at one time.
Hughes was also asked what kind of demographic she sees on the tours. She said when the tours first started there were more older women, but as the word spreads there are now more younger women joining the tours.
After the presentation Hughes spent time chatting with a number of chamber members about different ideas for bringing the tours to the Moosomin area.