From Where I Sit – More than Mountains

Last week I had the opportunity to attend one of five sessions presented by Travel Alberta. It was part of their spring Road Show series. Considering the potential number of people who could have attended?elected officials, economic development officers, tourism operators, and event planners?the turnout was disappointing. Considering the size of the rented room in Vermilion, it was oversold.

I’m just glad I was there.

The information presented was really relevant to what I’m doing. The opportunity to talk to key people from Travel Alberta and Tourism, Parks, and Recreation and ask specific questions was invaluable. Pressing my business card into the hand of the Minister of Tourism didn’t hurt, either.

Having the name of the right individual to contact in government is worth its weight in gold. Having a face to go with the name is gravy. Having the context from which to say, ?I was in your Vermilion session on May 3 and I want to follow up with . . .? is priceless.

For mom and pop tourism operators, for start-up events, for those considering the plunge into the tourism business, and for fledgling non-profit tourism organizations, the information is vital. Discovering that a wealth of resources exist for the asking is eye-popping. Having one’s event or special offer listed on ATIS, the Alberta Tourism Information Service website, is a no-brainer when you consider the three million hits they receive in a year.

Access to copyright-free still images or videos for print or website use saves big bucks and amps up the level of professionalism. Being able to leverage advertising dollars by having the government match them dollar for dollar doubles their effect.

As I sat there taking notes and adding snippets to the backs of business cards, I wondered why more people weren’t there taking advantage of the day’s offerings. It’s so easy to bemoan what government isn’t doing because of philosophy or lack of money. The fact is that these two tourism ministries have the goal of reaching $10 billion in tourism revenue by 2020, up from the current $7.9 billion.

The method for getting there is multi-pronged. Improving direct air access is one. Continuing the emphasis on promoting ?goose bump moments? through the Remember to Breathe campaign is another huge part. But we need to step up as well.

For those of us in the country, remembering that Alberta is so much more than just mountains is another good step, from where I sit.

Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.