In March, Big Lakes County applied for the Alberta Tourism Growth Innovation Fund (TGIF) for a third party expert to conduct a Visitor Friendly Assessment (VFA) in the county. On July 12, 2018, Alberta’s Minister of Culture and Tourism, Ricardo Miranda, notified Big Lakes County that the request had been approved in the amount of $45,000 under the Destination Development Support funding stream.
“As Minister of Culture and Tourism, 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.”
The VFA will help Big Lakes 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 (EMC), a group that specializes in tourism and recreation, is conducting the assessment for both the summer and winter seasons. EMC will visit key sites and assets throughout the county: lakes, campsites, hotels, restaurants, events, museums, cultural and tourist sites, and various communities. EMC is working closely with the Big Lakes County Economic Development Authority on the project.
The move to do a VFA came out of Big Lakes 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.
Reeve Ken Matthews said, “We thank all of the companies and communities that supported our application. This assessment is a first step to gathering the information we all need to plan for tourism growth. 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.”
EMC will provide its findings and recommendations to Big Lakes County and other communities and companies involved in tourism on October 2nd, 2018 (1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.) at the Joussard Community Hall. Tourism stakeholders are invited and asked to RSVP.