Commentary – Great potential to build local tourism

Richard Froese

Tourism has great potential to boom around the Lesser Slave Lake region. The upcoming Victoria Day weekend on May 19-21 historically marks the launch of the summer tourism season, when people flock to the lake and nearby resorts.

However, the weather is certainly not at its summer peak, particularly this year as snow was still on the ground in some places in late April and melted snow created lakes in local fields.

Many people can tell stories of camping on that May long weekend, only to wake up to snow on the ground.

Moving forward, the long-term weather forecast by The Weather Network calls for a hot dry summer in northern Alberta. Then, we will have long forgotten all about the winter that didn’t want to end. Besides that, the local region has plenty of recreational opportunities – and water.

Lesser Slave Lake and Winagami Lake to the west are the two major bodies of water that attract thousands of tourists each summer.

That’s a big feature that draws tourists to a region.

Areas and communities around Lesser Save Lake have great potential for tourism to boom.

Big Lakes County council heard that message from a Travel Alberta official at its regular meeting Dec. 13.

“There’s opportunity for tourism to grow here,” says Tracey Desjardins, industry development manager for northern Alberta.

“Tourists are attracted to lots of water.”

Visitors also come here to hear and read the stories about cultures of local people, she says.

“It’s all about the cultural experiences,” Desjardins says. “Your residents are your best ambassadors, everyone has a role to play.”

Travel Alberta serves a leading role to market and promote tourism.

“We want to move tourists to other parts of the province, including the north,” Desjardin says.

She says the Lesser Slave Lake is a natural asset that tourism can be developed around.

The best way for residents to promote their community and region is to know what’s in your own backyard.

Go to any community and ask local people what’s what visitors cans do and see and many residents will probably say not much.

In fact, any community and region has way more than what locals know about. Take time to tour what’s available in your area and neighbours in the wider region.

Areas around Lesser Slave Lake and the towns of High Prairie and Slave Lake have a rich and deep history of Indigenous heritage. Francophone culture is prominent in the communities of Falher, Donnelly, Girouxville, and McLennan to the west, most commonly called the Smoky River region by residents.

Seniors and elders in local communities are always more than happy to share some of their countless stories that reflect the history of their culture and local roots. Museums and historical sites are dotted all over the Lesser Slave Lake and the Smoky River regions.

Big Lakes County has pressed ahead to build the tourism sector and initiated steps and formed a task force of local tourism operators to work to develop a plan and work with Tourism Alberta and Travel Alberta.

Rather than rely on a local economic development organizations to lead, the county finds it more effective that the industry lead the way because they are have more direct interest in the future of the industry.

Other regions can follow and move in a determined focused direction.


Share this post