November 9th marked the day of the Go East of Edmonton Regional Tourism organization’s Fall Special Event, hosted this year at the beautiful Red Feather Ridge event facility southeast of Mannville – owned and operated by Doug and Cheryl Livingstone, who have been actively involved in Alberta tourism for many years.
The focus on this year’s event was on how we are changing tourism in our region east of Edmonton with two excellent presentations in the vein of that theme, one by Kevin Kisilevich, Marketing and Development Consultant for Go East of Edmonton and Director of ACTA (Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance), and the second by Trevor Tessier of Strong Coffee Marketing out of Edmonton. Kevin’s presentation focused on what’s happening, what’s changing and what Go East is doing to develop the tourism industry throughout the region, Trevor’s focus was on data and analytics and how that assists us in knowing where to focus our investments, promotions and event development.
In attendance was the staff of Go East of Edmonton, representatives from a number of the region’s towns, cities, and counties, as well as representatives of key regional events and several business owners.
This event also featured a delicious meal, with a focus on local food, catered by Red Feather Ridge. There was enthusiastic feedback from the attendees of the event, who were better able to understand the important role that the Go East of Edmonton organization plays in marketing the region in the tourism industry. The presentations featured some key information on what’s trending in tourism for the region, including a massive increase in the popularity of farmers’ markets and a surge of new interest in heritage and culinary experiences.
During the presentations, key information on Go East of Edmonton’s 2016 performance was shared, including an incredible increase in web traffic of 486%, number of social media followers doubled over last year and it was a record setting year for number of guides distributed and picked up by consumers, with an estimated 200,000 readers of the guide throughout 2016. Also shared during the presentation by Kisilevich were some key points on what developing and nurturing the tourism industry can mean for the region during a time when the former mainstays of the economy are experiencing a slump. Namely, encouraging tourism activity generates a ripple effect in the local economy, creating jobs faster than any other industry and seeing hires at all educational levels with full-time, part-time and contract positions that can’t be outsourced.
Go East of Edmonton Tourism is heading into its fifth year of tourism development and promotion throughout the region and is recognized by Travel Alberta and communities throughout the region as the leader and main source of tourism marketing and development. In 2016, the team of Go East of Edmonton attended every meeting, seminar or workshop hosted by Travel Alberta, resulting in up-to-date information to use in strategy and development, as well as strengthening the relationships between key Travel Alberta representatives and the Go East of Edmonton organization.
Tourism Consultant and Director of Go East of Edmonton, Kevin Kisilevich, also serves as the director on the board of the Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance (ACTA). Go East has been working together with ACTA for more than two years now to facilitate the development and promotion of culinary trails throughout the east of Edmonton region. Kisilevich was in attendance at the Travel Alberta Annual Conference, hosted in Banff on October 24th and 25th, where ACTA was honoured with an Alberta Tourism ALTO Award. “It’s been a great year for the Go East tourism region,” remarked Kisilevich. Other award finalists from the region included the Ukrainian Heritage Cultural Village and the hugely popular Big Valley Jamboree. (Kevin Kisilevich is pictured second from the right in the ALTO Awards photo).
The continued development work done through the Go East and ACTA partnership for the culinary field has enjoyed great interest and support from restaurant owners and producers across the region. Go East is very pleased to see that there are many new culinary businesses starting up in the region, like the Old School Cheesery located in the County of Vermilion River – just one of the many unique, local culinary businesses that will benefit from the culinary tourism development work done by Go East of Edmonton.
When discussing the reasons for the great success that Go East of Edmonton has been experiencing, Kisilevich says it is due to a number of key factors. Go East has developed strong partnerships with key major media, including Global Edmonton and CTV Edmonton, as well as local media – Country 106.5 and local newspapers. As well, Go East has seen excellent success from working with some of the top digital marketing consultants in Alberta – with a recent notable partnership with Strong Coffee Media in Edmonton which resulted in a summer-long digital marketing campaign which was wildly successful and the first of its kind done in a tourism organization in our region. “Another key to our success is that we have put together an experienced and dedicated team of directors, staff, and consultants who are making a real difference in growing tourism,” said Kisilevich.
Kisilevich also shared that many of the events and attractions saw a marked increase in attendance over previous years, in spite of the rainy weather. In fact, a number of event organizers have stated that Go East made a real difference and brought people out, even during rainy days.
As 2016 draws to a close, the Go East team is focused on strategizing for the future, expecting another huge growth over the next year. “We are very excited to say that we are seeing a real growth in regional tourism and we invite businesses and organizations who want to get involved and participate to do so. We’re seeing a very positive tourism trend in the region right now and we anticipate that it will be continuing into the future throughout East-Central Alberta,” he concluded.