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Initiatives aim to help tourism businesses, visitors respect the land

“We want to ensure travellers feel safe, but we also want to encourage businesses to showcase what they are doing to keep everyone safe. Our businesses are very good at ensuring physical distancing. They’re continuously disinfecting high touch surfaces, they’re investing a lot of time and resources into keeping their travellers safe."

CANMORE – As the summer tourism season is set to hit the region, Tourism Canmore Kananaskis is hoping a pair of initiatives will help businesses with their COVID-19 recovery and enforce the importance of visitors respecting the land.

The tourism group was granted the World Travel and Tourism Council safe travel stamp and launched the Pledge to the Peaks initiative.

The initiative is an oath for travellers and residents to care for the community, respect the land and preserve the peaks. The oath is designed to have people act as stewards to the land, which is among the more popular destinations in the region with its national and provincial parks.

“We wanted to get ahead of some of the negative interactions that happened last year. Both not respecting the land, but also not necessarily being kind to each other and respecting staff the way we would hope travellers would,” said Rachel Ludwig, the interim CEO of Tourism Canmore Kananaskis.

The pledge acknowledges the Treaty 7 lands of the Stoney Nakoda First Nation and emphasizes the importance of respecting the land. It also gives visitor centres a further tool in helping educate tourists on important aspects such as having a backup plan if a site is unavailable that day, carrying bear spray and being responsible.

“The important part is following through. Signing up is an acknowledgement and the pledge itself really serves as a conversation starter because it's really high level and inspirational,” Ludwig said.

Tthe concept came out of the Mount Royal University innovation accelerator program with other Albertan tourism organizations. The program had them discuss minimum viable product to learn the impact of new programming.

“Pledges are nothing new in the tourism marketing world, but we wanted to see how it makes a difference," Ludwig said. "We started by having it in the visitor's guide and that's where it was supposed to live for the summer, but we noticed we got more and more questions and people really wanted to interact with us. We will probably work on expanding this initiative.”

The safe travel stamp is designed to be adopted by locations that have met the globally standardized health and hygiene protocols for public safety from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program requires the public and private sector to give insights and toolkits to allow visitors to have confidence. Local businesses who meet the standards will be recognized on the Tourism Canmore Kananaskis website and be given a safe travel sticker for their business to allow for visitors to identify them.

Once they’ve been confirmed to follow guidelines, businesses will be added to the Explore Canmore website, receive acknowledgement for digital marketing and have stickers to put in their business.

Ludwig said public health safety is the top priority, especially as borders begin to open and tourists start to flock to the region. The aim is to give visitors the extra bit of confidence to know businesses are doing all they can to ensure everyone’s safety.

“We want to ensure travellers feel safe, but we also want to encourage businesses to showcase what they are doing to keep everyone safe. Our businesses are very good at ensuring physical distancing,” she said. “They’re continuously disinfecting high touch surfaces, they’re investing a lot of time and resources into keeping their travellers safe.

“It’s really important they also communicate to travellers there’s a lot happening in the background that is not necessarily seen, like health and safety screening with staff and cleaning. It’s an easy way to recognize businesses are doing everything in their power to keep everyone safe and healthy and have an enjoyable visit.”

People can visit www.pledgetothepeaks.ca and www.explorecanmore.ca/safe-travels-stamp for more information.