The international tourism industry is reckoning with the challenges created by over-tourism around the world. This dynamic is seen in Canmore through our complex relationship with visitors and the tourism industry. Tourism is clearly our primary economic driver, yet we do not have a clear vision or community alignment and agreement around what this means. We enjoy the incredible restaurants and recreation amenities, but we have issues with traffic congestion and impacts on affordability. We worry about wildlife conflict and the loss of special places just for locals, yet we love the business opportunities and thriving arts and culture opportunities.
The ultimate vision of tourism is our community is well summarized in the pdf Tourism Canmore Kananaskis Community Tourism Strategic Plan (51.65 MB) , which was approved by Town Council in 2019:
“By 2024, Canmore Kananaskis will be fully committed to a triple bottom line approach to tourism development and this will be well received by visitors. A high degree of trust will have been built up between stakeholders and several high priority sustainable tourism development goals will have been achieved.”
The challenge is well summarized by this description in the pdf Tourism Canmore Kananaskis Community Tourism Strategic Plan (51.65 MB) for the need for change:
“There needs to be a purposeful and deliberate effort on the part of the community and businesses to find common ground and work toward a shared vision for tourism. Failure to take action and work collaboratively could result in over tourism and degradation of the core value proposition of the community. The impacts of this could include decreased quality of life for residents, negative environmental impacts and reduced viability for tourism businesses. If the region chooses to act proactively, it has an immense opportunity to become an iconic, internationally known destination and a leader in sustainable tourism development.”
This speaks directly to the need to create what the international tourism industry calls a “social license to operate.” To truly be successful, tourism needs to work at being embraced by the community. This happens when tourism industries make meaningful and concerted efforts to attract visitors who are tied to the community in ways that fit with what the community values.
In 2021, the Tourism Task Force led a community engagement initiative with a broad cross section of the community, with the aim of finding common ground between the tourism industry and the community to work towards creating a shared vision for tourism. The Terms of Reference for the task force can be found pdf here (156 KB) .
Lead a robust community engagement process that generates broad based and meaningful conversations around tourism and its role in Canmore. This dialogue will lead to a shared understanding of how a comprehensive and balanced framework for the tourism industry can:
- Preserve the social fabric of the community,
- Maintain and where possible enhance ecological integrity, and
- Continue to ensure Canmore’s long term economic health.
- Establish an engaged and informed Task Force who have a shared understanding and purpose and a common language with respect to their work.
- Facilitate both community acceptance and commitment (i.e. social license) that supports appropriate tourism and a tourism industry that acknowledges and prioritizes the shared values of the community.
- Evaluate sustainable frameworks for tourism that will ensure long-term social, environmental, and economic viability.
- Question our assumptions and preconceived notions about the tourism industry, our community, and their impacts on each other.
On Oct. 5, 2021, Council endorsed a pdf Regenerative Tourism Framework (2.80 MB) recommended by the consultant who conducted a robust community engagement plan to help determine the future vision for tourism and its role in our community. They presented a tourism framework designed to facilitate a thriving tourism economy and ensure the most important concern of the community is addressed: the regeneration of the essence of Canmore; an authentic, active mountain town that has a meaningful relationship with the natural environment and Indigenous culture and history. The vision is that Canmore is a community of hosts and visitors committed to regenerative tourism through which we leave this beautiful place with a healthier environment, happier community, and stronger economy. Administration will work with Tourism Canmore Kananaskis to create a Tourism Roundtable to initiate and monitor progress and facilitate broad-based community dialogue.
The task force is Council-led, but is not a formal council committee, so meetings are not open to the public. Video recordings of presentations made to the Task Force will be posted below. Updates and recommendations will be posted here as they become available.
To learn more about the public members please click pdf here (280 KB) to read a short bio on each member.
Dawn Saunders Dahl
Rachel Ludwig, CEO Tourism Canmore Kananaskis
Mayor John Borrowman
Councillor Rob Seeley