Is Slave Lake underexposed? Promoters of tourism certainly think it is. There’s big potential in this region, they say, and they may be right. But how exactly to go about ‘branding’ an area so that when people sit down to plan a vacation, the Lesser Slave Lake area pops up somewhere near the top of the list?
This is the kind of thing that keeps economic development types up at night, scratching their heads.
In Alberta, every place will always play second fiddle to the mountains. The big cities have a natural advantage as well. After that? Well, if you have dinosaurs you’re in business. Everybody else is scrambling for the crumbs. That’s us, but we are not without assets, and things are not really so bad. The season is short, but campgrounds are mostly full. As long as there are lakes with fish in them, a certain stream of tourists is assured. The question is how to work the margins so as to bump up that traffic from the Edmonton area by a few per cent. That’s where the focus should be, in our opinion, as opposed to some pie-in-the-sky notion of another Sylvan Lake, with wall-to-wall development along a chunk of lakeshore and the natural charm of the place lost forever.
When it comes to raising the profile of the area, attending trade shows in Edmonton and Calgary should help. For years, that was a big part of what the reps from the former Big Lake Country Tourism organization did. They’d come back every time with stories about how they helped city people overcome their geographical ignorance of part of their own province. ‘Just three hours north of here? You’re kidding!’ That sort of response was common.
So you have to work at it. Catering to campers and fisher people in the summer months is not a huge business, but it is significant and it can grow. The big lake anchors the whole future of tourism and it is not going anywhere.