Helping the Grande Prairie area shake the reputation attached to it is the legacy project that Louise Cote is undertaking. The current Executive Director at the Grande Prairie Tourism Association is winding down her time with the organization but wanted to make sure a Destination Management Plan was underway before she left.
Cote has been with the organization for a number of years, even acting as interim Executive Director three times before officially taking on the role. A recent funding announcement from the province are making her plans a reality.
The $35,000 will be used to hire a contractor who will perform an assessment on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, also known as a SWOT assessment. Cote says they are looking to examine the region as a whole.
“We’re hoping part of this will get us maybe a little branded to a really feel good call to action message for Grande Prairie as a whole that we can all agree on. That’s generic enough that it fits everybody.”
The board is made up of representatives from smaller municipalities around the region as well including communities like Beaverlodge and Wembley. Cote says many of those communities are working on their long term strategies and they want to see how tourism could play into those plans.
“There’s a lot of things in the region that we felt could be tourism products. They’re not yet but many people have an interest. Especially in the innovation shown in the region.”
The Destination Management Plan will help narrow down what to highlight in the future. They hope to discover key “clusters” of activities they can focus on in the future like festivals, outdoor recreation or sports tourism.
Cote also believes focusing on the strengths of the region will help attract people to the region not just to visit but also to live. Something she thinks will be key as the efforts to staff the new hospital ramp up.
Cote is also another in a recent line of people and groups who say a dedicated centre for arts could be a game changer.
“What do we have? How do we work together with everyone else? So, even your heritage and culture and the art gallery and all of those great offerings that we have. There’s no reason we can’t start putting those with events and creating a larger impact.”
She hopes that this will start to change the reputation she hears about Grande Prairie.
“We get stigmatized in a lot of ways with being just an industrial park or being “pioneer.” So many of the American tourism traffic that we get here at the centre are just shocked.”
Cote will wrap up her work with the GP Tourism in early May but expects the Destination Management Plan work will take until at least February 2019.