County nets $45,000 for tourism assessment

Big Lakes County hosted a tourism sector tour in June 2017, a two-day mobile workshop that brought together government leaders and industry experts to explore the challenges and opportunities for tourism in the area, with the aim to move towards a tourism strategy. Some of the group stands for a photo at the Kinosayo Museum in Kinuso. Left to right, are Mustafa Sahin of Canada-United Arab Emirates Business Council, Lisa Baroldi of Big Lakes County Economic Development Authority, Misty Gaudet of Century 21 Sunnyside Realty, John Paddon of the High Prairie School Division, Mike Waddell of Alberta Culture and Tourism, Big Lakes County Councillor Robert Nygaard, Brendan Newman of Alberta Culture and Tourism, Steve Eppley of ITAdvantage, Tracey Desjardins of Travel Alberta and Jodi Sware of A Thousand Words Photography.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Funding of more than $40,000 has been awarded to Big Lakes County to hire a consultant to conduct a visitor-friendly assessment to boost tourism.

A grant of $45,000 was approved by Alberta Culture and Tourism under the Destination Development Support funding stream, says a county news release dated Sept. 4.

“This assessment is a first step to gather the information we all need to plan for tourism growth,” Reeve Ken Matthews says.

“Among other actions, we also intend to do an asset inventory and to collaborate with communities in the broader region since tourism is a shared interest and priority for every one of us.”

The VFA will help the county and other stakeholders in the area work together to enhance the visitor experience.

The assessment will identify ways to improve overall ambience and visual appeal, wayfinding and signage, quality of services and professionalism, public services and visitor amenities, and visitor information.

Expedition Management Consulting, a group that specializes in tourism and recreation, is conducting the assessment for both the summer and winter seasons.

EMC will visit key sites throughout the county, such as lakes, campsites, hotels, restaurants, events, museums, cultural and tourist sites, and various communities.

EMC will provide its findings and recommendations to the county and other communities and companies involved in tourism on Oct. 2 at the Joussard Community Hall from 1-3:30 p.m.

Tourism stakeholders are invited and asked to RSVP.

EMC is working closely with the Big Lakes County Economic Development Authority on the project.

A summer assessment was completed by EMC from Aug. 16-18.

“We toured the county and visited many communities, lakefront campgrounds and historical sites,” says a statement from EMC.

“There were many interesting aspects to the trip, however, the main highlight has to be the people.

“Everybody we spoke to was very friendly and helpful with directions and recommendations.”

The move to launch a VFA came out of the county’s June 2017 tourism sector tour.

Experts from within and outside of the county visited various assets and then held a strategy session.

“One key suggested starting point was to better understand the visitor or customer experience to inform our tourism plans and promotion,” Matthews says.

Culture and Tourism Minister Ricardo Miranda is committed to promote such projects.

“As minister, I am proud to support projects like yours that contribute to the economic growth of Alberta’s tourism industry and improve the quality of experience for visitors and Albertans,” Miranda says.

He further explains the value of tourism in Big Lakes County and Alberta.

“We are helping communities across the province continue to build and enhance tourism experiences that travellers want,” Miranda says in a government news release.

“This will attract more people to Alberta and inspire them to explore off the beaten path to find our hidden gems.

“With more innovative tourism products, people will stay longer which will help grow our tourism industry and local economies, and create memorable experiences for Albertans and travellers.”


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