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Tourism development and the Crowsnest Pass

Nicholas L. M. Allen

Feb 21, 2024

Travel Alberta highlights the importance of the Southern Rockies Tourism Development Zone

During the Municipal Council meeting on February 13, a report for the Southern Rockies Tourism Development Zone was presented to the council.

Terry Goertzen, vice president of Economic Development at Travel Alberta, explained how the Southern Rockies Tourism Development Zone has been identified as a promising area for tourism growth and development. 

Goertzen began the presentation by emphasizing the need to disperse visitors in Alberta beyond the legacy destinations that exist. These legacy destinations account for a significant portion of tourism visits and spending but face challenges due to seasonal compression. The goal is to create more opportunities for both Albertans and international visitors to explore lesser-known regions, reducing the traveler deficit in Alberta.

“Our focus is on the other parts of Alberta that can grow. We made a strategic decision to focus our staff, energy, and our investment energy beyond the Big 5,” Goertzen stated, signaling a shift towards exploring the untapped potential of regions like the Southern Rockies.

One of the key factors driving the focus on the Southern Rockies is the significant amount of money that Albertans spend in neighboring British Columbia, particularly in the Crowsnest Pass region. The goal is to retain more of this spending within Alberta, boosting the local economy and creating job opportunities.

“The potential here is immense. One really great hotel here is going to stop a lot of people from going farther because there’s enough to do,” Goertzen explained, emphasizing the region’s existing attractions and natural assets.

The economic model presented in the report suggests that with strategic investments, the Southern Rockies Tourism Development Zone could experience a 5.1 per cent growth in visitor spend, translating to $260 million over the next 10 years and the potential creation of 1,874 jobs. The model considered existing investments and jobs in the region as a baseline and highlighted the growth potential with additional investments.

“The opportunity we believe with investments, engagement, and conversations in the 10 zones, Southern Rockies is probably the third-highest opportunity across Alberta in terms of investment opportunity and potential growth,” Goertzen highlighted, showcasing the region’s strong potential for economic development.

The report also outlined the extensive engagement process, including conversations with 114 stakeholders, 63 businesses, and four communities in the region. The survey results indicated strong community support for tourism development, with 91 per cent acknowledging its importance and 80 per cent expressing a welcoming attitude toward more visitors.

“More collaboration is needed. If we work together, we can attract visitors to stay longer. It’s about a sustainable, community-centric approach. We want it to be here in the long term,” Goertzen expressed, emphasizing the importance of collaborative efforts for successful tourism development.

Acknowledging concerns about exploitation and maintaining the region’s quality of life, Goertzen assured that any development would be done in collaboration with the communities, ensuring sustainability and long-term benefits.

“As we move forward, we need community buy-in. Positive messaging and community engagement are crucial for shaping the future we envision,” Goertzen stated, underlining the importance of involving the community in decision-making processes.

The Discovery Report and Goertzen’s presentation offered a glimpse into the exciting potential of the Southern Rockies as a thriving tourism destination. With a commitment to sustainable development, collaboration, and strategic investments, the region aims to attract more visitors, boost the local economy, and showcase the natural and cultural assets it has to offer.

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