TOUR DE FORCE  A Columbia Valley familiarization tour for 12 Calgary event planners concluded on April 28th at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. Photo by Breanne Massey

TOUR DE FORCE A Columbia Valley familiarization tour for 12 Calgary event planners concluded on April 28th at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. Photo by Breanne Massey

By Breanne Massey

Pioneer Staff

A dozen Calgarians were flown to the Columbia Valley to learn about the perks of valley culture.

The Columbia Valley Tourism Marketing Committee organized a familiarization (FAM) tour for 12 Calgarians to see the sights between April 27th and 28th through a partnership with Integra Air.

Its the first time weve done a tour like this, said Andrea Tubbs, chair of the Columbia Valley Tourism Marketing Committee. Weve done the FAM tours for media, but this was the first time for meeting planners.

The decision to reach out and extend the invite to executives from all walks of life was prompted by a strong desire to boost tourism numbers in the valley during the shoulder season.

Were trying to build business in the slower season because we know that some groups tend to travel outside of major holidays and school breaks, Ms. Tubbs explained. Our goal was to try to attract some of these groups to our valley, instead of Banff or Jasper, where they typically go.

The major draws for tourism in the Columbia Valley branch out from Fairmont to Panorama Mountain Resort, she said.

We did cram a lot of (activities) into two days, said Ms. Tubbs. They had a full tour of the valley all the way from Fairmont to Panorama, and up to the Radium Hot Springs all of the resorts that have capacity to (cater) to larger groups for over 100 people. There was a canoe trip on the Columbia River with Penny Powers (of Columbia River Kayak & Canoe), dinner at Eagle Ranch Golf Course and a trade show up at Panorama with about 10 to 15 local vendors who supplied anything from ATV tours to golf.

It was amazing how the whole valley got together to showcase the valley, agreed Ms. Powers, who acted as the tour leader. We all worked together to show off the entire area as much as we could in such a short period of time. Its not hard to showcase the valley when we have so many wonderful places to see.

The allure of the Columbia Valley did not take long to sink in for the tour group.

The reaction was exactly what we were looking for, said Ms. Tubbs. The attendees were completely impressed with everything they saw and they felt there was enough information available to understand what the valley has to offer. Many of them have been either out this way or were aware of the area, but didnt really think about it as a meeting destination, so it really changed their perception on what the valley has to offer them.

She is optimistic about working with the Columbia Valley Tourism Marketing Committee to host another FAM tour in the fall.

It was one of the best responses weve ever had from a group, said Ms. Powers.

The travelling costs remain the biggest challenge to running this program and Ms. Tubbs is eager to see if the Integra Air partnership will continue.

The flight that we arranged from Calgary to Invermere was heavily subsidized by Integra Air, she said. We need to look at that partnership to see if we can make it work again. For the people who actually attended this time, we had one group make a confirmed booking out of the event and thats definitely a big win for the committee and the property that they booked at, Copper Point Resort.