Here are some thoughts about Alberta’s tourism industry from John Ritchie.
How did your business evolve during the pandemic? What changes or new aspects to your business will you take with you moving forward?
Evolution took us into the retail selling space, utilizing our cultural abilities in storytelling and commerce, and as Métis we were interpreters, educators, traders and travellers. Hideaway Adventure Grounds shares stories of resilience and introduces guests to the hands-on skills needed to forge a homestead on this new land called Canada.
We know that Albertans will play a key role in the initial economic recovery of our local tourism industry, as health restrictions lift. What would you say to encourage Albertans to continue exploring their own backyard, even when it’s possible to travel elsewhere again?
Alberta is diverse and the tourism products are equally so. There are many immersive experiences to enjoy. There is so much for us to experience and explore and learn about in our own backyards. Using technology can help to explore history. One app I really like is the History Check app developed by Albertans for Albertans. It’s a way to learn local stories and understand the people of a particular area.
We know that health and safety is top of mind for everyone right now. How is your business preparing to give visitors peace of mind as restrictions lift?
Physical distancing is the new normal, and we have plenty of space to stretch out and enjoy your time in safety and comfort. All the sites are completely cleaned and thoroughly sanitized between each use. We added private outhouses for each site, so there are no shared facilities. We have an open-air group shelter so that group activities can take place safely. Guest safety and comfort is our top priority.
What is the most valuable part of Alberta’s tourism industry?
Alberta's most valuable tourism asset is the diversity of landscapes and unique characters. We have the Badlands, the ranchlands, the foothills, the Rocky Mountains, the Boreal Forest, lakes, rivers and more. Some of our lakes are so big, they are like small oceans. There are so many beautiful landscapes right across the province and unique individuals who live on those landscapes. In northern Alberta, we have trappers and outdoorspeople, while other parts of Alberta have businesspeople who wear suits and live a completely different lifestyle. Alberta is diverse.
What are your hopes for the future of Alberta’s tourism industry? How will your business play a role in that?
It is my hope that the tourism industry offers the Indigenous people of Alberta an opportunity to tell our history and stories from our point of view. Indigenous Knowledge Keepers hold the stories of our past, which guides us into the future.
How can industry work together to recover and build an even stronger post-pandemic?
I have been in the tourism industry a long time and the amount of support and guidance tourism businesses are receiving from Travel Alberta is really helping us to move forward. As Indigenous and non-Indigenous operators work together, we all grow and benefit. Organizations like Travel Alberta and Indigenous Tourism Alberta really help to support tourism businesses grow and make business dreams become a reality.
What do you wish the rest of the world knew about tourism in Alberta?
Alberta is the only place in Canada that has Métis settlements. As a member of a settlement, I am proud and honoured to have an opportunity to share the Métis story with visitors on Métis land.
What is your favourite “hidden gem” in Alberta?
The hidden gem in Alberta is the people. Only in Alberta will you find Albertans. We have big hearts and big smiles, and we welcome the world to the place we call home.
What is your favourite memory of travelling in Alberta?
When I was very young, I spent summers camping with my family. We got out of the city and experienced something new. That is what I am trying to offer guests at Hideaway Adventure Grounds – the opportunity to escape their ordinary routine and come experience something new and memorable. Have you ever roasted bannock over an open fire?