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Wednesday, 10 May 2017 08:00

Tourism ambassadors to help promote Newell area

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A pilot project launching this tourist season in the Newell Tourism Region will see the use of volunteer tourism ambassadors using social media to tell others about their own experiences enjoying the activities available to them in their own region.

The Newell Tourism Region is one of three areas, along with Hanna Special Areas and Lethbridge, to take part in the pilot project funded with Alberta Culture and Tourism grant funding received by the Canadian Badlands Ltd.
“This is a big push in the tourism industry,” explains Jaime McIntosh, marketing specialist and executive director of the Newell Regional Tourism Association (NRTA).
“It’s popular. Lots of people don’t want to be told what to do, they want to hear from locals. They don’t want to go to visitor centres. People want experiences and they want to hear about those experiences from the people living in the area.”
Officials with the NRTA put out the call for local volunteers to become tourism ambassadors. The pilot project is being overseen by ambassador co-ordinators Pete Heck and Jody Robbins, who in mid April held a training session for the five volunteers in the Newell region.
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These volunteers will have access to local events and then be able to talk about their experiences at them using social media including their own twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts. By using the hashtags #mybadlands and #visitnewell, their posts will be more easily shared by others in the region as well as NRTA officials.
Selected ambassadors received the social media training, as well get the benefit of being part of a social media community, growing their own platforms and experiencing what the Newell region has to offer by attending local events, visiting local venues and seeing area attractions.
Heck, who runs his own media company, understands the power of blogging in today’s social media-based society. He says using tourism ambassadors is a great way to share the hidden gems of an area people may not know about.
“This is a pilot project, but if it takes off I think there will be other communities that will want to get involved,” he explains.
Heck is excited about the ability to cross-promote and raise the exposure of the areas involved. Training the ambassadors was more about how they can take their social media skills to the next level, as many already do use social media every day.
Officials hope the use of the hashtags will grow with time and even more people who aren’t official ambassadors will use them when experiencing local areas.
“I’ve had destinations already asking, ‘how can I get this in my backyard?’” adds Heck. “It takes a bit ... to start and finding the right influencers to come in.”
He was hearing a lot of excitement about the project so far. Tourism ambassadors who have stepped forward between the three regions taking part in this pilot project range from a photographer and a hairstylist to a couple in Lethbridge who competed in Amazing Race Canada.
“It’s really cool, the crew that’s formed together. They capture a wide range of niches and interests — there’s something for everybody.”
Brooks Mayor Barry Morishita, who serves as president of Canadian Badlands Tourism, is also enthusiastic about the project.
“The people who best know the Newell Region are those of us who live here,” he said in a news release. “Residents who are active on social media deliver very influential and authentic voices to travellers who are considering visiting the Newell Region.”
May 1 the project officially kicked off so area residents can be watching social media for the hashtags and the tourism ambassadors posts throughout the upcoming months until the September long weekend.

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor