LAC LA BICHE - A virtual meeting this Wednesday afternoon about a very 'actual' opportunity across the Lakeland region is hoped to draw a wide range of people interested in the area's tourism industry.
Forced to be held over a virtual Zoom platform due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event's organizer says the global pandemic is also responsible for the timeliness of the meeting.
"Covid-19 is probably going to continue to keep travel for many Albertans very centralized, very regional," says Lac La Biche County's Economic Development Officer Jana Rowe.
The afternoon meeting, she says, is to help support a growing network of tourism operators across the Lac La Biche region and beyond. The session is also to find common goals and create even more opportunities and partnerships going forward.
One example of areas where cross-promotion can come into play, says Staci Lattimer, Lac La Biche County's manager of recreation and culture, is sport tourism. When teams come to a community for a sporting tournament or event, there should be an easy-to-find list of visitor-friendly activities included.
"It's not just the sport itself, but a way to enhance the overall experience of the visit for the people coming in ... showcasing the unique features of the community," she said.
And like the multitude of opportunities the area's tourism market can generate based on the abundance of lakes, history, recreation, culture and Indigenous tradition, the call-out for Wednesday's information session isn't restricted to only those with direct links to the tourism industry.
From mom-and-pop storefronts to corporate franchises, and organizations and service providers directly or indirectly related to the tourism industry— and even people looking to join the industry — Wednesday's guest list for the virtual meeting is as open as the area's tourism potential.
"We want to cast a fairly wide net," said Alex Fuller who is also with the municipality's economic development and tourism department.
He says restaurant owners, convenience store operators, owners of fuel stations and other local businesses are welcome to attend. "We'd like to see people who already run tourism experience businesses, attractions or events, people looking to expand, or people just looking at starting one. And you don't need to be providing tourism to be a tourism business — Any business or group that provides any part of the visitor experience is effectively a tourism provider, like restaurants, gas stations, hair salons ... we invite them all."
The meeting's agenda will highlight municipal and regional plans and offer a chance for networking.
"It will be a great chance for some back and forth information for everyone to see what could be coming down the pipe," said Fuller.
That information sharing is part of the ongoing theme of partnership, he explained, describing the goal as providing consumers with a "total package" experience.
Obviously, organizers say the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the industry will be a big topic for discussion. It will also provide some opportunities.
"We know the day will eventually come when the pandemic is behind us and we will see the businesses adapt to what that will look like," said Fuller. "Tourism has always seen changes — but never more so than now."
Fuller hopes the session will open doors for more experiences based on localized day-trip visits as well as longer-term stays for visitors.
Overall, he says, the meeting is hoped to show community members that there is strong support for all aspects of tourism throughout the region.
"We want to emphasize that when we are all working together within the region that more can be accomplished," he said.