2021 Saskatchewanderer says he will 'push creativity to the next level' during COVID-19
SASKATOON -- Felipe Gomez, a musician and former school teacher, has been named the 2021 Saskatchewanderer — a role that will look different than years past due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a great time to push creativity to the next level,” he told CTV News.
Gomez will spend the next year showcasing the many things Saskatchewan has to offer, all while following COVID-19 protocols.
He’s just over a week into the job and said he’s already coming up with unique ways to highlight different businesses and places across the province during a time where travel to other towns and cities is being discouraged.
That includes doing physically distanced visits as well as virtual meetings and tours, according to Gomez.
“There’s ways that we can go through the summer all together, enjoy and make the best of this beautiful place that we are living on.”
Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, Gomez said he will be staying locally for the time being, but said it’s not “off the table” for the entire year and that they are monitoring the situation day-by-day.
“Probably when things open up, we’ll be on the road, me and my dog will be there visiting people and hanging out and learning and see new businesses and parks and all that. I’m getting excited here just talking about it!”
Jonathan Potts, executive director of marketing and communications for Tourism Saskatchewan, said the need for the Saskatchewanderer role has increased during the pandemic.
He said visitor spending in the province was down by about half last year, but at the same time, more people seem to be shifting their attention to their own backyards when it comes to vacations.
“People are rediscovering their province. Certainly a lot of the activity that people are undertaking has shifted outdoors so we’re seeing a real uptick in winter activities and camping and fishing, you name it, anything people can do to get outside,” Potts said.
“We’ve seen really increased usage of our provincial and national parks probably our regional parks as well, which is fantastic, so we expect to see those trends continue in 2021.”
Potts said he looks forward to seeing the content Gomez produces.
“Necessity is the mother of invention so, we know Felipe will come up with some great story ideas and really creative ways of doing things given the challenges that we face,” he said. “A real focus this year is going to be showcasing the tourism businesses, the entrepreneurs, small businesses that are working hard and pivoting to do things a little differently to help keep our economy going during this tough time.”
Gomez said he is ready to rise to the challenge. He is from Chile and just became a Canadian citizen last year — something he feels will help him bring a fresh perspective to the role.
“Because I wasn’t born and raised here, I still see this place as a newcomer, I still see this place as a tourist, there’s still things that impress me. So, I really want to share that excitement with them,” he said.
Gomez has spent the last few years travelling more than 20,000 kilometres on a bicycle sharing music and stories with people across Canada in an initiative he called the "Bike and Bass Tour."
“I started on Vancouver Island and finished in Newfoundland. Then I went to the Arctic... then I did 8,000 kilometres north and south of Saskatchewan. I tried to reach every end of the road in the northern communities. I did Flin Flon to Winnipeg for the Indigenous Music Awards. And the last one I did was Russia from Saint Petersburg to Moscow as a guest speaker for the winter cycling conference there.”
Gomez said he’s now ready to bring that passion and experience to his role as the Saskatchewanderer.
“Follow me, if you see me in the streets, say ‘hi‘ and let me know what you would like me to see, what you would like me to try.”
People can follow Gomez’s journey on the Saskatchewanderer website and on social media.
He will take on the position until March 2022.