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The Victoria District Economic Development Strategy Working Group has been working diligently in the delivery of the Victoria District Economic Development Strategy (also referred to as Smoky Lake Region Economic Development Strategy). 

The Victoria District Economic Development Strategy is a major influencer of economic development and community sustainability in the Smoky Lake Region. Regionally, we are working to achieve the following benefits:

  1. Arrest the declining population which will help maintain and expand core services
  2. Improve property values
  3. Reduce unemployment and underemployment
  4. Create career opportunities for youth
  5. Retain residents
  6. Attract investors, entrepreneurs and residents
  7. Distribute wealth to equalize services, infrastructure, and opportunities

This Strategy is taking advantage of the major investments that the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) has made in our community at Métis Crossing ($40 million+) and will circulate these benefits into other tourism opportunities to further the stability and sustainability of the Region. We are building on existing assets of the Smoky Lake Region: our history, natural environment, cultures and food and beverage offerings. Our raw materials are amazing and staying true to our local and authentic community best benefits our visitors. By implementing the Strategy, we hope to see economic, cultural, heritage and ecological benefits for many years to come. 

Our area is home to many cultures, including First Nations, Métis, and Europeans whose stories are shared to enhance the traveler experience. The Métis Crossing anchors the visitor economy sharing the Métis cultural past, present and future, as a living culture. The Strategy will develop Ukrainian and other European cultural products, to be shared with residents and visitors. Additional anchor venues include aquatic interpretation, trail developments and associated amenities, agricultural interpretative centers, and a host of entrepreneur led businesses.

The Region is within an hour of over a million people in the Edmonton area. Edmonton has an international airport which serves 8 million travelers per year, further expanding our potential visitor populations. Within 5 hours is another 1.2 million potential visitors with a second international airport.

Regionally we are linked to neighboring municipalities and align our tourism attraction and marketing activities with theirs, to extend our reach and traveler dwell time. Of these, 1 in 3 international visitors and 1 in 4 domestic visitors seek authentic Indigenous and immersive historical, ecological, and cultural experiences and demand currently outstrips supply. Travelers are seeking real connections, experiences and stories and local sells, which is exactly what Smoky Lake Region offers and is our pathway to tourism industry growth.

The Strategy partners are Métis Nation of Alberta, Smoky Lake County, and the Town of Smoky Lake. This partnership will engage with our tourism operators, our customers (travelers) and our local public. As well, all our businesses outside direct tourism offerings and our core services will benefit from the tourism economy and be able to contribute to the growth and expansion of the economy of the Region. Each Strategy partner will fund the Tourism Corporation which will be responsible for tourism development across the Region, including the centers for Ukrainian, agricultural, and aquatic experiences.

Tourism is different, it markets experiences, not products. This central concept includes these unique aspects of tourism:

  • Typically there is a seasonal demand wave of highs and lows which we plan to attenuate with adding 20+ annual events including food and arts festivals celebrating local culture.
  • The weather is always unpredictable, and indoor facilities development is included
  • Market trends do change but authenticity and excellent delivery are timeless
  • Traveler expectations change and  a commitment to continual improvement ensures they return frequently
  • High fixed costs and upfront capital investment are required to create signature experiences
  • It’s a long but highly predictable game, few tourism operations sell to capacity in their first few years of operating
  • It’s not competitive, it’s cooperative: with businesses working collaboratively to promote their destination as well as their own operations
  • Experience based operations are usually low on collateral for loans such as land or assets and need unconventional financing
  • Tourism businesses can be both large scale and corporate or lifestyle or growth focused, which has influence on their revenue growth

Tourism continues to grow worldwide at 5%, despite setback years due to global events and the growth is all happening in leisure travel. During the years global travel is reduced, local travel increases to fill the gaps in the industry. Tourism is one of the fastest growing industries worldwide, equaling, or surpassing oil exports, food products and automobiles.

Tourism opportunities in the Region include events with arts, sports, crafts, food and drink, culture, and heritage themes. Activities delivering unique transportation especially those celebrating historic modes, are key to attracting travelers. Accommodation opportunities exist in expanding and enhancing current accommodation and adding experiential spaces such as eco pods, cabins, backwoods camping and self-catering. Authentic retail and catering lead the industry expansion, especially local products and goods and services owned and operated by Regional businesses.

Traveling closer to home, even before COVID19, we were experiencing a strong travel trend due to our economy, changing demographics and a growth in excellent local experiences.

The Alberta government aspires to increase the Alberta tourism economy from $10 billion to $20 billion per year. This Strategy contributes $60 million per year, towards meeting this target. 

With strategy implementation, six hundred new jobs are created by 2031, making tourism one of the Region’s largest employment sectors. 

We will reverse the Regional population declines, growing the population from 4200 residents to over 4700, thereby improving the Region’s long term sustainability. 

The Strategy reduces unemployment to less than 12% by 2031, with other economic development activities also supporting employment creation.

The Strategy Business Plan Values were created by a group of engaged public citizens from across Smoky Lake Region. These values state:

  • We believe in the preservation and promotion of our cultures, heritage and ecological assets
  • We want to enhance the experiences of our visitors by sharing our assets in an authentic way
  • We want to maintain our community identity and lifestyle while sharing our assets

The Strategy’s implementation must work for the benefit of the residents to be a success. We hope the information presented here assists in your conversations with our residents across the Region. We appreciate you taking the time to hear more about this exciting opportunity for the Region.

If you have any questions, please contact any of the following team members:


Jordan Ruegg, Smoky Lake County Planning and Development Manager,

jruegg@smokylakecounty.ab.ca               p: (780) 656-3730 / c: (780) 650-5207

 

Kyle Schole, Smoky Lake County Planning and Development and Heritage Assistant 

kschole@smokylakecounty.ab.ca             p: 780-656-3730 / c: 780-650-2059 

Michelle Wright, Smoky Lake Region, Community Economic Development Officer

cedo@smokylakeregion.ca          c: (780) 656-5398

 

Adam Kozakiewicz, Town of Smoky Lake CAO 

cao@smokylake.ca        p: (780) 656-3674 / c: (780) 603-4565