“For tourism growth, working collaboratively to promote Airdrie will be a key to our success”
I say that, not because you are new to the city, nor that I am, but because together, we are about to venture down a path with a fresh focus!
I joined the City of Airdrie Economic Development team late last August, tasked with creating a tourism profile for our city. Exciting!
Tourism in Airdrie?
An inquisitive, unsettled and often baffled look comes over the face as I mention this, feeling the reach of mountains, lakes or palm trees a little out of scope. Yet in June 2018, Expedia ranked Airdrie as the second friendliest community to visit in Canada, all based on hotel guests’ feedback! Successful tourism does not need themed amusement parks, famed landmarks or architectural marvels to attract visitors. It needs great reviews.
In fact, the word tourism applies to almost anything now: eco-tourism; cultural tourism; even voluntourism is a thing! Tourism is simply ‘the activity of people travelling to and staying in places outside their usual environment.’ Regardless of the approach, attracting visitors attracts money, which few cities can afford to pass up.
Tourism in Canada is booming, having had its best year ever in 2018, accounting for more than $24 billion to Canada’s GDP by the fall quarter. In Alberta, tourism is valued as a core pillar of economic diversification, now and in the future. Reported growth is up five per cent year over year, putting billions of visitors’ dollars directly into Albertans’ pockets for job security, business growth and community investments.
Airdrie as a destination?
Every tourist destination started somewhere! Be it giant roadside markers, quirky taglines, or self-proclamations. Tourism attractors, those brand identities, draw us in with their idyllic imagery, colourful language and palatable features. Creating a unique identity in tandem builds business attraction. Investors are known to buy into the pulse and appeal of a community after experiencing it first as a visitor.
Airdrie has great attractions, well-known festivals and events, local restaurants and hidden-gem retail. The amount of talented entrepreneurs, home-based businesses and industry experts is ours for the boasting. Unfortunately, many of these small businesses have small marketing dollars to tell their story. For tourism growth, working collaboratively to promote Airdrie will be a key to our success.
Where do we start?
Huge trends in the tourism sector are agri-tourism, the slow-food or ‘farm-to-fork’ experience. Domestic tourism (a.k.a day tripping) and provincial sports tourism abound. Travellers enjoy authentic experiences, without high costs and crowds, yet still Instagram worthy. They seek local food, local attractions and to find a sense of connection to the place they are in.
For Airdrie, we will build up our identity, focused on our strengths and competitive advantage, thriving in our ‘small-town feel’ and big-city amenities. We are stacked with authentic experiences ready to share. So invite your faraway friends and family here, engage in the community, post those great reviews, and be sure to welcome everyone you meet along the way.
Shauna Quinn is the tourism development officer with the City of Airdrie, firstname.lastname@example.org