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Fort Museum chosen for exclusive London trip

Tour operators met with representatives of Canadian attractions at Canada House.

Tour operators met with representatives of Canadian attractions at Canada House.

The Fort — Museum of the North West Mounted Police had a greater presence on the European stage this year.
Fort manager Sandi Davis was in London this month promoting all that the museum and Fort Macleod have to offer travellers.
“I was very, very proud of not just our little fort, but our town,” Davis said. “We’ve come a long way to be playing with these heavy hitters.”
“Even in the east they know Fort Macleod. We take it for granted in our own community how much Canadian history is here but heritage individuals, they all know about Fort Macleod.”
The Fort Museum was one of just 40 “Canadian Signature Experiences” chosen for the London trip by Destination Canada, formerly the Canadian Tourism Commission.
Destination Canada, which promotes Canadian tourism experiences in Europe, has selected 196 “Canadian Signature Experiences.”
“It has to be a uniquely Canadian experience,” Davis said.
The Fort Museum’s “Groom a Horse Program,” which allows the public to help prepare a horse for the Musical Ride, is one such “Canadian Signature Experience.”
“You can’t get that experience anywhere else in the world,” Davis said. “They really quite value and enjoy that program.”
The Fort Museum paid the $1,000 registration fee for Canada Shared 2016, and Destination Canada covered the flight, accommodation, meals and other costs.
“It was a great opportunity that we had,” Davis said. “It was a tremendous experience.”
The Fort Museum, Dinosaur Park in Brooks, Canmore Cave Tours and a Banff attraction were chosen from Alberta.
Other attractions were from B.C., North West Territories Quebec and Ontario.
“It was a very nice mixture of the varieties of things you can do in Canada,” Davis said. “It was great.”
Davis and the other 39 Canadian representatives were gone from March 1-6 to showcase their attractions to tour operators from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the Netherlands and other countries.
Davis and the others were at Canada House at the Canadian Embassy for the convention where they met with representatives from the tour companies.
During that full day of meetings, Davis found European tour operators were more open than ever to hearing about southern Alberta.
“We had very good response,” Davis said. “The nice thing about southern Alberta is it’s that untapped territory. Everyone is getting tired of Banff so they’re looking for different, unique experiences.”
Tour operators liked Fort Macleod’s proximity to Calgary, the U.S. border, Waterton and other southern Alberta attractions such as Frank Slide.
“The Fort Museum itself, it’s the Canadian history,” Davis said. “To explain to them this is where the west was developed. It started here. They like the history — it sells itself in a lot of ways.”
Davis also found out Canada in general has a strong selling point with Europeans.
“Europeans like coming to Canada because it’s safe,” Davis said. “They said Canada is one of the few countries that is still safe in the world’s eyes.”
There was also a night during which each attraction set up a challenge or activity for members of the media who were trying to earn points to win a prize.
“I had brought a pillbox hat and a First Nations vest and they had to pose for a selfie,” Davis said. “It was a really great opportunity to get some media attention.”
In addition to information about the Fort Museum, Davis shared information about Fort Macleod, its historic Main Street and other nearby attractions such as Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.
Davis said it will be a year or two before she knows how productive the trip was in terms of attracting tours.
European tour operators are booking a year or two in advance.
“It was a great opportunity for the fort and the town,” Davis said. “We have done a lot of hard work and it’s starting to pay off.”

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