WILD Alberta is off to an excellent start with a fantastic turnout and response to the first of three scheduled networking sessions for tourism operators in the area encompassing Swan Hills to Westlock, Barrhead, Lac Ste. Anne County, and Woodlands County. The session was held in Fort Assiniboine on Saturday, drawing in 19 participants, including tourism operators, local journalists, municipal representatives, and WILD AB members. 

The tourism operators present at the meeting run diverse businesses, including campgrounds, cabin rentals, glamping accommodations, marinas, a buffalo ranch, a freelance photographer, local newspapers, an agricultural society, and the local museum.

The session lasted a full day, from 10:00 AM to roughly 3:30 PM, with a break for a provided lunch. Louise Meier of Pinnacle Solutions facilitated the day’s events with a focus on effective marketing strategies centred on understanding the needs and wants of prospective customers. Meier also spoke about the importance of networking with fellow tourism operators to offer their customers the most fulfilling personal experience possible, highlighting ways that the businesses present could complement each other and work together to enhance regional tourism and entice visitors both near and far. For example, if one of the operators offering accommodations had a guest that was looking for something interesting to do for the day, they could recommend a boat tour out of the marina owned by another operator. Or if the guest wanted something different for dinner, they could be directed toward the buffalo ranch to try bison. 

WILD AB began planning these networking sessions to engage tourism operators and businesses in the region as they work to develop the non-profit as a Destination Marketing Organization led by operators and municipalities. The newly restructured organization plans to focus on product development, marketing strategies and continued operator engagement and support as they double down on efforts to tap into the recovering tourism industry on a regional level.

The participants were very engaged in the process and seemed energized by the proceedings. As the session concluded, multiple tourism operators voiced how much they enjoyed this event and looked forward to the next one. One individual described how she had felt very alone as she and her husband built their business from the ground up but were no longer feeling that way by the end of this session. Another participant gave voice to a perspective that seemed to resonate with his fellow operators by stating that at the end of the day, they love what they do and want to share that with people.

WILD AB has two more networking sessions coming up; on March 11 in Westlock and March 18 in Onoway. Both sessions are already starting to fill up, so register on the WILD Alberta website (wildalberta.com) as soon as possible to reserve your spot.

By Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Feb 22, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Grizzly Gazette   Swan Hills, Alberta

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