A new provincial campaign hopes to bring more tourists to the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo region.
The Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo Economic Development and Tourism (FMWBEDT) has launched “Discover the Unexpected Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo.” The goal is to showcase the region to people in the rest of Alberta.
“First thing that was brought up with me by many in the community, and of course my board of directors, was a sense of frustration that people outside of Fort McMurray that had no experience of Fort McMurray had a negative impression of the region,” said Kevin Weidlich, President and CEO of FMWBEDT, in an interview.
The organization says the campaign will promote show the region as a close-knit community with plenty of economic promise, a rich culture and history, and breathtaking natural beauty.
“We have a fantastic offering for an experience with the northern lights. Anyone who has lived in our region for any length of time has experienced them and enjoyed the awe and we know that the northern lights are a really interesting attraction,” he said. “We hope to develop tourism operators to be able to be able to offer those types of attractions to tourists.”
Weidlich said the goal is not to compete with major tourism markets like Jasper and Banff. Those communities are already iconic and recognized internationally, he said. But, he believes the natural beauty, as well as the hunting and fishing experiences, can make Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo a popular spot to visit.
“Our goal isn’t to draw tourists away from those regions, but rather to capture a new market share,” he said.
Success will depend on many different factors that Weidlich says FMWBEDT will monitor. The region faces labour shortages in most industrial sectors.
“One of the measures, of course, is simply helping to accelerate or grow our local population,” he said.
In partnership with the Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce, FMWBEDT has already secured the Alberta Chambers of Commerce (ACC) convention in 2023. The ACC represents the chambers of commerce from more than 120 Alberta communities and represents more than 24,000 local businesses. The chamber estimates the conference will bring in a net $210,000 in local economic activity.
FMWBEDT hopes to lure more conventions to the region next year. A partnership with FMWBEDT and Travel Alberta is under development, preliminary details include a commitment to add to the work FMWBEDT is doing and amplify it as well as assist with the development of new tourism experiences.
The campaign is expected to run for the remainder of this year and through to the end of 2022.
Jenna Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today