Themes in tourism: fire, fishing and First Nations

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

There hasn’t exactly been a stampede of travellers at the Slave Lake Visitor Information Centre (VIC) yet this year. But according to VIC manager Darcie Acton, there’s been enough for her to identify themes, based on the questions asked.
“People are asking about fire history,” she says. “It could be triggered by the displays outside.” (More of which, by the way, are planned.) There is also a demand for books on the subject, Acton says.
“It is a niche.”
Trend number two is no surprise: fishing. Lots of people doing it and wanting to do it. Trend number three is a curiosity about Aboriginal culture, crafts and so on. Some of these are on display and for sale in the new gift shop at the VIC. It was unveiled at an event on May 17, just prior to the long weekend. Getting the gift shop up and running was a lot more work than anybody anticipated, Acton says, and much of the credit goes to Ellen Criss.
“Hopefully people will purchase these locally-created items,” she says.
As for the event itself, Acton says it was a success, from more than one point of view. One of these was the capacity of the VIC space for receptions and such. About 47 people were in the room at one time on May 17, she says, and that was about as many as it could handle. A day later it played host to 25 people at the Business Support Network meeting, and that was pretty packed as well.
As far as travellers stopping in the early going, Acton describes it as “a trickle” but steady. There were a lot of people on the road during the long weekend, but most of them did not stop. One group that did was a team of researchers from NAIT, looking into peatland reclamation. Also, “people from Germany stopped by.”
Acton says the plan this year is to collect more data on visitors, such as where they are from, where they are going, how long they plan to stay in the region and so on. Weekly campground surveys will also be a part of the program.
In May of 2016, only 175 people stopped at the VIC. In August of that year, over a thousand did. Acton expects at least that many again this season.
This will be the first year the VIC is managed by the regional economic development group, set up by the Regional Tri-Council (Slave Lake, M.D. of Lesser Slave River, Sawridge First Nation).

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