The last two years have been challenging, from the unpredictability of operating in a pandemic to the highest visitations ever recorded and a decade’s worth of changes happening in a very short period.
We expect visitations to plateau in the short term, giving us a chance to catch our breath and assess what’s working and what’s next. This leaves us in a better position to look ahead more intentionally as we build on the current momentum to grow our destination responsibly.
Our vision is to see Nordegg & Abraham Lake grow as a Rockies adventure destination where tourism makes a positive contribution to our local communities. What that looks like 15 or 30 years from now is a picture we like to keep a little blurry so that we can give ourselves room to try new ideas along the way without the pressure of creating a picture-perfect community.
The potential for this has long been established:
The David Thompson Corridor is one of the most scenic locations in the Eastern Slopes and is expected to attract a large percentage of the increased visitor travel – David Thompson Corridor Local Integrated Resources Plan (1992)
There have been reams of recommendations on how to grow the destination, going at least as far back as the 1981 West Central Alberta Tourism Destination Area Study. Unfortunately, implementation has been scarce in large part due to a lack of funding, complex plans with too many moving parts and a top-down approach.
We tend to do things a little differently. After all, we spent the past decade building a tour company outside of an established destination. We learned along the way that we can’t be successful without working with partners to grow the destination. We’ve also found that building momentum by tackling smaller projects produces better results than trying to implement complicated plans involving a multitude of stakeholders.
When it comes to growing our destination, we often don’t control the things, like infrastructure or land use planning, that would have the greatest impact on the visitor experience. Given that studies after studies have been identifying those issues for 50+ years, waiting for others to address them isn’t a very appealing option either…
What we’re doing is a ground-up approach, focused on projects we can complete in the near term that have a direct impact on the visitor experience.
Everything we’re doing has been identified in various studies and plans including the Central Alberta Destination Management Plan, the David Thompson Country Regional Tourism Strategy and the David Thompson Country Visitor Friendly Assessment.
As a new destination we can’t afford the playbook used by established destinations like Banff, Jasper or Canmore. We can learn from them but we need to give ourselves permission to do things differently.
Looking at the year ahead, our plan is to:
- Build on last year’s work setting up Explore Nordegg & Abraham as a not-for-profit corporation and updating the brand to better reflect the region;
- Continue to work together with industry partners on destination and product development projects;
- Create more in-depth content allowing our guests to immerse themselves in our region before they ever visit; and
- Increase our sales and business development work to grow sales for our partners.
Our goal through this isn’t to simply grow visitation to the region but to increase the positive contribution of tourism in our local communities.
Before we take a deeper look at our plan we need to take a look at how we approach adventures. The next sections cover the framework we use in all of our planning along with the shared purpose between us, our destination and our guests that define all of our adventures.