The Slave Lake Region Tourism Society held a meet-and-greet on St. Patrick’s Day in Slave Lake. Twenty or 30 people – many of them who own and/or operate businesses or attractions tourists or travelers might be drawn to – attended.
Also in attendance was Chris Down, who manages destination development for Travel Alberta. Down asked the tourism operators to talk about what works for them, what doesn’t work and what they think might make things better. The response was slow at first, but picked up in numbers and volume as the meeting went on. Some seemed to be using it as a forum to plug their particular product, and had come prepared with brochures and business cards.
The operators represented quite a range of businesses and attractions, both public and private. One was a hotel in Slave Lake; another was a professional hunting outfitter; the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation was well-represented, as was the Kinosayo Museum in Kinuso. Two women with Indigenous-themed businesses at Driftpile and Sucker Creek made presentations, even though they are well outside the tourism society’s boundaries (which are basically those of the M.D. of Lesser Slave River.)
Tourism society president Kimberly Hughes, asked for her assessment of the meeting, had this to say in a follow-up email to The Leader:
“We had a few people who couldn’t make it last minute but all in all I am happy with the turn-out for our first meeting and I think it was a good start to the conversation of tourism in our region. The overall goal was to make connections and encourage discussion from the existing tourism operators, so I would say we were able to accomplish that. A lot of people had great ideas and it was wonderful to get feedback and to better learn what current operators are looking for in terms of support and their vision for tourism in the region.”
The next steps, Hughes says, will be to keep talking and building relationships among the regional tourism partners, as she calls them. Quarterly meetings are being contemplated. She hopes the society will be able to help with promotions via its website (slavelakeregion.ca) and a visitor information guide that is being planned. They’ll also be invited to the society’s monthly meetings.
“I have come to realize that tackling growth in tourism for our region is a marathon not a sprint,” Hughes says. “There are so many things to be done and while we have made great strides these last few months, we are just getting started.”
Hughes adds that the society hopes to hear from residents in the area “who have a tourism business and that they can reach out to our Tourism Co-ordinator Shauna Fiddler at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
As for the question about expanding the region the society represents, Hughes says, “that is sort of up for debate and officially undecided at this time. It does appear that our regional neighbours don’t really have a tourism group, though, so we are open to assisting whomever we can and would like to see where that leads.”