This exciting new project in Alberta proved that the private sector can—and will—step up to the plate to invest substantially if the conditions are right.
You just can’t keep tourism out of the news. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit to China last week drew the attention of headline-writers, particularly the launch of our new tourism campaign in that market and its importance to our industry’s future.
However, another announcement on Feb. 9, which flew under many people’s radar but bodes equally well, was the approval of the Glacier Discovery Walk project on the Icefields Parkway in Jasper National Park, AB. I often hear that Canada needs new investments in tourism infrastructure, particularly in attractions. It’s been an age since we’ve seen such a large-scale private sector investment in a new attraction in a national park. Brewster Travel Canada has made the investment, and the end product promises to be spectacular. Kudos to the company for seeing the project through.
If you’re not familiar with the work, here’s how the Glacier Discovery Walk will take shape. The plan is to build a 400-metre interpretive boardwalk. The area will be fully accessible, including interpretive stations that highlight the Aboriginal history, ecology, geology, glaciology and social history of the region. The coup de grâce will be a glass-floored observation platform stretching 30 metres over the Sunwapta Valley. Not for the vertigo-challenged!
This project is rich in promise. The Glacier Discovery Walk will be just the type of exceptional and immersive experience to help Canada stand out globally. Our national parks with their wonderful natural beauty are one of our country’s main trump cards (Chinese travellers, for example, love them!) and this type of project can only draw more international visitors. They will be able to engage with the dramatic Albertan landscape in a way that was not previously possible.
In this case, private sector has showed conclusively that the investment interest is there when the conditions make sense. The Federal Tourism Strategy is a strong call to action for product development and investment. There have been other examples of substantial private-sector investment in tourism infrastructure around the country—the development at Le Massif de Charlevoix in Quebec and the Capilano Cliffwalk in BC spring readily to mind—but cash on the table has been thin on the ground.
The environmental assessment around the Glacier Discovery Walk attracted a lot of attention, but the proposal passed the rigorous requirements for a development in a national park. Brewster proved that you can survive the glare of environmental scrutiny and come out the other end smiling. That was great to see, too.
The Honourable Peter Kent, Minister for the Environment, gave credit where it was due during his news conference last week. He commended Parks Canada and Brewster Travel Canada for their vision and collaboration in investing in and protecting one of the finest natural areas of the world.
This project is a tribute to Canada’s natural beauty. It’s also a tribute to much-needed tourism innovation. We work in the fastest growing industry in the world, one that’s also the most competitive. With new investments like the Glacier Discovery Walk, Canada is poised to compete more successfully with our rivals for travellers’ attention.
What did you make of it all? Has Brewster shown the way forward? Can you think of other examples of similar projects underway in Canada or that are in the works? Or are there examples in other countries we could learn from? Do tell all; tweet them to me @CTCCEO or leave a note in the comments below.