Travel Alberta vice-president

Videos promote ‘hidden gems’

A dozen seconds into Travel Alberta’s latest promotional video, Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions’ steam train chugs into view.

A dozen seconds into Travel Alberta’s latest promotional video, Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions’ steam train chugs into view. The Stettler-based attraction is followed by nearly three minutes of breath-taking scenery and tourist highlights from across the province.

Released a month ago, the video has already attracted nearly 24,000 views and marks the latest segment in Travel Alberta’s Remember to breathe campaign.

Last year, the government of Alberta’s tourism marketing agency launched a series of high-quality videos designed to appeal to “youthfully spirited travellers.”

It was rewarded with a Diamond Award at this year’s International Tourism Fair in Berlin, and about 1.5 million views.

Richard Wong, vice-president, industry relations with Travel Alberta, said in Red Deer on Tuesday that Remember to breathe was created to evoke emotion. He refers to it as Brand 1.0.

“What we are is an authentic experience with breath-taking landscapes.”

The latest video, and shorter clips that have yet to be released, are Brand 2.0.

“It’s about weaving some of those hidden gems that we have in the province that appeal to the youthfully spirited, both in the regional and long-haul markets,” he said.

Wong was in the city for a Travel Alberta open house that attracted more than 50 people from tourism-related organizations. It was one of 14 open houses being held throughout the province to describe Travel Alberta’s work and obtain feedback.

Wong said Travel Alberta’s strategy is to attract youthfully spirited visitors from within the province and key markets outside — most notably California, the United Kingdom and Japan. In addition to the Remember to breathe videos, it’s sharing Alberta stories.

Among these are Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions, the Ponoka Stampede and the Medicine River Wildlife Centre.

“These are little hidden gems; little things that people didn’t know.”

Although Statistics Canada has yet to release tourism numbers for 2011, Wong believes it and 2012 were successful.

“Anecdotally we know it’s on a positive trend,” he said, citing growth in hotel occupancy rates and the tourism levy that accommodation businesses pay to finance Travel Alberta’s work.

Feedback from tourism operators has also been positive, he said.

One challenge is funding, said Wong. The Canadian Tourism Commission, which works with organizations like Travel Alberta to promote travel in Canada, has had its federal funding cut. Its budget is expected to be about $58 million for 2013-14, down from $72 million in 2011 and approximately $100 million a few years earlier.

“That’s what keeps us up at night,” said Wong, noting that other travel destinations continue to invest in their own promotion.

“It’s about competition.”

Rather than go head-to-head with that competition, Travel Alberta is working to identify its best market — youthfully spirited travellers, and appeal to their emotions through messages like the Remember to breathe videos.

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