As the distillery’s fame has increased, so has visitor traffic. From its first home in a classic 1929 movie theater, Eau Claire has steadily expanded its hospitality space to meet growing demand. The operation now occupies a ten-acre plot in the heart of what was previously known as Turner Valley (now called Diamond Valley).
An investment-matching grant from Travel Alberta recently allowed Eau Claire Distillery to add a heated, covered patio. The dramatic increase in capacity allows the business to unlock larger event bookings well beyond wedding season. As a result, visitors can now experience the unique ambiance and history of Alberta’s whisky belt in picturesque Diamond Valley year-round.
Extending the busy summer season year-round
Part of the challenge in offering an elevated guest experience year-round has been the local climate. The new covered and heated patio space effectively connects several smaller venues under a single roof. The result is a year-round event space suitable to host everything from community festivals to business meetings to music events.
Having the covered patio takes us to a new level — it elevates us in terms of the scope of what we can do.
The added capacity is already paying off with significant increases in both group tours and patio guests over the summer. To support, the distiller hired 15 additional seasonal employees, with another four staff positions added year-round. And the best seems yet to come.
The entrepreneur’s vision extends well beyond provincial borders. By promoting the brand worldwide, David hopes to build Eau Claire’s Turner Valley campus into a "must visit" destination in its own right, similar to the Guinness factory in Ireland or the distillery trails in Scotland.
Partnership with Travel Alberta
David first approached Travel Alberta in 2015 for assistance engaging international markets. Travel Alberta extended a three-year partnership program including coaching and financial support. Participating in experiential travel training with Travel Alberta later led to the development of a Prohibition-themed venue and experience.
David credits his ongoing partnership with Travel Alberta for the distillery’s success as a visitor destination. “Travel Alberta has helped us by both bringing visitors down and helping us promote our business, and also understanding how we can make it attractive to visitors,” he says. “It's been really a wonderful partnership.”
Tourism contributes to a stronger, more resilient local economy
David is clear about the knock-on benefits that tourism has had on the town and its economy. “Outside of our own growth in revenue and outreach, the town of Diamond Valley itself has seen small business growth in all of our neighboring support businesses,” he points out.
Visitors to the distillery will often spend the day exploring the area, stopping at the gas station, convenience store and coffee shops. Those who stay longer often hire locals to guide horseback or fly-fishing expeditions, in addition to spending on food and accommodations.
Having a tourism destination creates employment and gives the town a little bit of vibrancy that it wouldn't have otherwise.