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Alberta Tourism Success Stories

Each month during 2016, Travel Alberta featured a success story of a thriving Alberta tourism business or organization. These inspiring stories demonstrate how innovation, risk-taking, and partnerships with other tourism businesses have led to impressive growth through the development of popular Alberta tourism experiences.

With so many stories of success happening throughout the province, we are continuing the series into 2017.

Read the collection from 2016 below, and check back each month to read a new story for 2017.

2017 Alberta Tourism Success Stories

Not Your Grandfather’s Parks

Eighty-five years ago, a trip to an Alberta provincial park usually meant a boat ride, swim or picnic at one of six scenic sites.

Today, visitors can camp, hike, mountain bike, canoe or just relax at about 280 provincial parks and recreation areas, while more experienced outdoor adventurers can explore 33 wildland provincial parks or wilderness areas such as Wilmore Wilderness Park.
 

But that’s not all. At many parks, you can now take a guided hike, geocache, gaze at northern lights, enter a photography contest, appreciate art, or even take a workshop on using plants from the boreal forest to dye fibre. For Alberta’s tourism industry, that means more opportunities to develop experiences that showcase one of the province’s primal attractions — the natural beauty of our parks.

Green Tourism and Jobs

In total, Alberta Parks conserves 473 unique protected areas, including ecological reserves and heritage rangelands, encompassing nearly 29,000 square kilometres (12,000 million miles). In its quest to develop fresh experiences for visitors, Alberta Parks is working with tourism destination regions and community partners to build economic diversification, green tourism and green jobs. 

“We want to inspire a broader audience to recognize and appreciate the value of Alberta’s parks by promoting our diverse landscapes, multitudes of outdoor adventures and hidden gems,” says Heather Lambert, manager of program planning and policy coordination at Alberta Environment and Parks.

Balancing Recreation with Preservation

In their formative years, Alberta’s parks authorities set aside lands primarily for recreational use. Beginning in the 1970s, preservation became an important consideration when parks were selected, planned and developed. Maintaining these two objectives means any new tourism initiatives in provincial parks need to balance environmental footprint, impact on wildlife and a park’s capacity for visitors and activity.
This can be a challenge as visitation continues to grow. From 2012 to 2015, the number of Albertans who visited at least one provincial park in a year grew by almost 14 per cent. Albertans account for about 95 per cent of visitors to the parks, which are often in the top three attractions of rural Alberta communities on Trip Advisor.

“The key for us is to find partners that have genuine interest in the provincial parks and share our values of conservation and inclusivity,” says Lambert.

New Products That Fit

When searching for new products, Alberta Parks looks for activities that are a natural fit. Recent offerings include:
  • Three culinary camping opportunities being piloted this summer with the Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance at Sir Winston Churchill, Pigeon Lake and Lesser Slave Lake provincial parks, featuring local foods and chefs.
  • A pilot project with Alberta Culture and Tourism and the Alberta Farmers’ Market Association to offer popup farmers’ markets at selected parks.
  • A new dark sky stargazing experience scheduled to launch at Lakeland Provincial Park this spring.
  • New “regional routes” itineraries to inspire visitors to stay longer and explore the Northern Rockies, Lakeland, David Thompson Country, the Canadian Badlands, Kananaskis Country and the Crown of the Continent. This series of webpages and videos will expand each year to include more areas of the province.

Reaching Out to the World

Moving forward, Alberta Parks continues to collaborate with Travel Alberta on mapping, trip planning and sharing content, says Lambert.
Work is underway to create a new level of real-time sharing of information with the Alberta Tourism Information Service (ATIS), which will increase ways of providing customers with up-to-date content.

Some parks, such as Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, are exploring opportunities to develop export-ready products for the international traveller, with staff attending Travel Alberta’s Canada’s West Marketplace Scholarship Program.

“By working with Travel Alberta, we learn from others, plus we help inform them about who we are at Alberta Parks,” says Lambert. “It helps set the stage for more partnerships and growth.”

Come and Celebrate!

Parks Day — on July 15, 2017 — will be the feature celebration of the 85th anniversary of provincial parks in Alberta. Visitors are invited to take part in special events, giveaways, contests and a new Alberta Parks trackable geocoin. More details will be posted on the Alberta Parks events website as Parks Day approaches.

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How Does Your Japanese Garden Grow?
How Does Your Japanese Garden Grow?

Lethbridge’s Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden is sprouting new experiences and plans for expansion – all in time for its 50th anniversary.

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Legacy of Cook It Raw Still Fresh

The impact of Cook It Raw Alberta is still resonating with the heady growth of Alberta’s culinary tourism sector.

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2016 Alberta Tourism Success Stories

Fort McMurray Tourism Rises to Challenge

While many Albertans – and much of the world – think Fort McMurray is all about the oilsands, Fort McMurray Tourism (FMT) is diligently promoting awe-inspiring tourist adventures in the rugged northern playground of the Wood Buffalo region.

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Reynolds-Alberta Museum
Reynolds-Alberta Museum Turns Motorcycle Ride Into A Roaring Success

The Reynolds-Alberta Museum had its very own “when you build it, they will come” moment last summer. In late August, the Wetaskiwin museum’s Motorcycle Ride to Reynolds attracted over 1,000 ride participants, plus more than 400 additional visitors, bumping up visitation rates for that day by 639 per cent.

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Aspen Crossing is on the Express Track to Success

Trains have always been a big part of Jason Thornhill’s life. Canadian Pacific Railway tracks ran along his backyard when he was growing up on a farm near Mossleigh, Alberta.“My dad would carry me on his shoulders to see the train,” he says. “It was a weekly thing to catch a wave from the driver going by.” Today, Thornhill is the owner of Aspen Crossing, one of only two tourist train experiences in Alberta, and home to a successful garden centre, gift shop, restaurant and campground.

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Sharing Wilderness Paradise with Visitors a Dream Business

Powered by perseverance, passion and an eye for promotion, Grand Rapids Wilderness Adventures delivers authentic backcountry experiences on Alberta’s remote Athabasca River.

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Segway Tours Ride Wave of Popularity
Segway Tours Ride Wave of Popularity

River Valley Adventure Co. is steering its unique tourist experience in new directions. Read more about why commitment to customer service is the company’s core business strategy in the seventh of a 12-part series.

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Natural Instinct for Success
Natural Instinct for Success

From accidental zookeepers to award-winning Alberta tourism success, Discovery Wildlife Park is a testament to customer service and social media savvy.

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Eau Claire Distillery brings a Spirited Story to Life
Craft Distillery Blends History with Taste

Turner Valley’s Eau Claire Distillery is creating a stir not just for its spirits but also its hands-on visitor experience. Read more about how the owners of Eau Claire Distillery responded to early success in the sixth of a 12-part series.

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Prairie Gardens is All About Growth
Prairie Gardens is All About Growth

A relentless business model of adding attractions each year is cultivating new markets for a family farm turned agri-tourism sensation. Read more about Prairie Gardens and Adventure Farm's growth in the fifth of a 12-part series.

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Alberta Tourism Success Stories_Atlas Coal Mine
Rocking R Ranch Marries Rustic with Refined

An eye for diversification and commitment to local partnerships keeps business rocking at luxury cowboy guest ranch. Read more about how this tourism attraction increased visitor revenue in the fourth of a 12-part series.

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Atlas Coal Mine Digs Deep for True Tales

A commitment to authentic storytelling and “mine-blowing” experiences has propelled Atlas Coal Mine to enviable heights of success. Read more about how this tourism attraction increased visitor revenue in the third of a 12-part series.

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Canmore
Canmore DMO Knows How to Go Beyond

From hidden gem to thriving destination, Canmore is well served by Canmore Business and Tourism, known for big thinking, hard work and daring collaborations. Learn about the organization’s success in the second of a 12-part series.

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Destination Banff Tours
Discover Banff Tours Stays Fresh by Taking Risks

From a humble idea to one of Banff’s largest tour operators, Discover Banff Tours models the power of partnership. Learn about its road to success in the first of a 12-part series.

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