winners for Edmonton Tourism Awards 2024

CULTURAL EXPERIENCE TOURISM AWARD

Métis Crossing offers a deep dive into the heart and soul of Métis culture, history, and identity. Situated in a picturesque setting, it is Alberta’s first major Métis cultural interpretive centre, providing an immersive and educational experience that honours the Métis people’s legacy. Through a comprehensive array of interactive exhibits, workshops, performances, and storytelling, Métis Crossing bridges the past with the present, offering insights into the rich traditions and way of life of the Métis community.

Visitors to Métis Crossing take a journey through time, exploring the historical and contemporary aspects of Métis life. The centre’s programs, from guided tours to traditional craft workshops and seasonal celebrations, encapsulate the spirit of Métis culture, offering a unique perspective on this distinct Indigenous group. Métis Crossing is not just a destination; it’s an educational voyage that connects visitors with the enduring heritage and resilient spirit of the Métis people.

The centre’s mission extends beyond cultural preservation to active engagement and education, aiming to foster greater understanding and respect for Métis culture among visitors. By showcasing Métis artisans, musicians, and storytellers, Métis Crossing celebrates the community’s creativity and contributions, enhancing cultural tourism and economic development in the Edmonton region. This commitment to cultural representation and education highlights Métis Crossing’s role as a beacon of heritage and cultural pride.

 

SUSTAINABLE TOURISM AWARD

Sustainable Tourism Over 500k

The Edmonton Radial Railway Society (ERRS) champions sustainable tourism through the restoration and operation of historic streetcars, providing a unique and environmentally friendly transit experience in Edmonton. With objectives to expand public transit appreciation, rejuvenate historic rail corridors, and restore streetcars to their original condition, ERRS creates a living museum that educates and entertains.

Operating entirely on electric power, the ERRS’s streetcars exemplify zero-emission transportation, showcasing the potential for sustainable urban transit solutions. The society’s work in restoring disused rail lines and transforming them into thriving community spaces illustrates the transformative power of sustainable practices in urban development.

ERRS’s restoration projects breathe new life into historic streetcars, preserving Edmonton’s transportation heritage while promoting sustainability. The society’s dedication to restoring streetcars extends to educational missions, highlighting the evolution of public transit and its role in urban development.

The society’s funding model, reliant on passenger fares, charters, and donations, underpins its sustainable tourism practices. ERRS’s operation enhances Edmonton’s cultural and historical landscape, offering residents and tourists alike a tangible connection to the city’s past.

By providing accessible and engaging transit experiences, ERRS encourages a broader appreciation of sustainable transportation, contributing to Edmonton’s tourism appeal and environmental goals. 

 

Sustainable Tourism Under 500k

EcoFloats by RiverWatch epitomizes sustainable tourism, offering river-based educational tours that merge environmental stewardship with interactive learning. With a budget under $500K, EcoFloats operates on the principle of minimal ecological disruption, using non-motorized rafts to explore Alberta’s waterways. This initiative allows participants to connect with nature, fostering a deep appreciation for local ecosystems and the importance of water conservation.

Educational engagement is a cornerstone of the EcoFloats experience. Trained guides provide insights into local flora and fauna, conservation challenges, and sustainable practices. This educational aspect empowers visitors to make informed environmental choices and understand the interconnectedness of human actions and natural health.

RiverWatch’s commitment to community collaboration is reflected in its efforts to support local economies and cultures. By employing local guides and partnering with local businesses, EcoFloats ensures that tourism benefits are felt across the community, reinforcing the social equity pillar of sustainability.

EcoFloats by RiverWatch stands out for its innovative approach to tourism, combining education, environmental protection, and community engagement. This program not only offers unique, memorable experiences but also instills a sense of responsibility and stewardship in participants, contributing to the broader goals of sustainable tourism and ecological preservation in Alberta.

 

GREAT PLACE TO WORK TOURISM AWARD

Campus Tower Suite Hotel, managed by Coast Hotels, excels in creating a nurturing work environment that values inclusivity, diversity, and employee growth. Recognizing the complexity of modern workplace dynamics, the hotel has developed comprehensive policies and procedures to ensure business success alongside the safety and satisfaction of its staff, referred to as Ambassadors.

The hotel’s primary objectives include promoting an inclusive culture where workforce diversity is celebrated, ensuring awareness and respect for diversity to maintain a workplace free from discrimination, and enhancing leaders’ ability to manage and develop a diverse workforce. To achieve these goals, Campus Tower Suite Hotel employs fair recruitment practices, celebrates cultural diversity through monthly themed lunches, and provides annual training on violence and harassment prevention.

The hotel also emphasizes work-life balance, encouraging staff to prioritize their well-being, which, in turn, fosters productivity and job satisfaction. Managers lead by example, maintaining open communication and supporting staff in achieving a harmonious balance between professional and personal life.

Communication at Campus Tower is rooted in respect and meaningful engagement. The hotel promotes active listening and respectful interactions, ensuring feedback is constructive and supportive. Ambassador recognition programs celebrate employee achievements, reinforcing a culture of appreciation and motivation.

The hotel also empowers employees through clear communication of expectations and goals, continuous learning opportunities, and recognition of individual and team achievements. This holistic approach to employee welfare and professional development establishes Campus Tower Suite Hotel as an exemplary workplace in Edmonton’s hospitality industry.

 

SPORTS EVENT OF THE YEAR AWARD

Over $1 Million

The 2023 NHL Heritage Classic, hosted in Edmonton, was not only a celebration of hockey but also a showcase of Edmonton’s capacity to host large-scale international events. Marking the 20th anniversary of the first outdoor NHL game, the event drew over 55,411 fans to Commonwealth Stadium, creating an electrifying atmosphere that highlighted the city’s enthusiasm for the sport.

The Heritage Classic, which aimed to showcase Edmonton as a premier event and tourism destination, sell out the stadium, and celebrate hockey’s cultural significance in Canada, was a monumental success. The extensive promotional campaign, executed in partnership with the NHL and event sponsors, featured major media, corporate, and fan engagements, which significantly boosted Edmonton’s global reputation.

The economic impact was profound, with an estimated $35 million infused into the local economy. The event not only captivated local and international audiences but also supported community initiatives, with donations made towards hockey’s development and inclusion programs in Alberta.

The Heritage Classic was a testament to Edmonton’s passion for hockey and its ability to deliver a world-class event, enhancing the city’s profile as a leading destination for major sporting events and contributing to its economic and cultural vitality.

 

Under $1 Million

The Edmonton Yudanshakai Judo Society orchestrates Canada’s largest judo event, turning the Ice Palace at West Edmonton Mall into a judo arena. This event, evolving since 2006, has reached an unprecedented scale with over 1,200 competitors spanning ages seven to 67. It’s not just a tournament; it’s a cultural exchange, with participants and spectators converging from across the globe, including nations like Japan, Croatia, and England.

The event serves multiple goals: raising judo awareness locally, providing a competitive platform for various skill levels, and establishing itself as a premier judo event in Canada. Its strategic location in a high-traffic mall ensures maximum visibility, engaging passersby and drawing them into the world of judo.

The economic influx from this event is considerable, with attendees using local accommodations, dining, and transport services, thus injecting vitality into Edmonton’s economy. Funded primarily through registration fees supplemented by grants and sponsorships, the event showcases sustainable growth and broad community support.

Promotion through social media and traditional media platforms, combined with live-streaming, amplifies its reach, attracting global attention and solidifying the event’s status as a pivotal moment in the judo calendar. This event not only celebrates judo as a sport but also promotes Edmonton as a diverse and inclusive city, capable of hosting world-class sporting events.

 

BUSINESS EVENT OF THE YEAR AWARD

The OE Global Conference 2023, co-hosted by NorQuest College and Open Education Global, marked a historic gathering, emphasizing open education’s role in sustainable development. The conference aimed to enhance global education access, quality, affordability, and student success through open educational practices. The theme, “Building a Sustainable World through Open Education,” aligned with UNESCO’s Education for Sustainable Development goals and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, specifically targeting quality education and lifelong learning for all.

The event, the first of its kind at a community college, attracted over 418 participants from 29 countries, making it the most attended in its history. It fostered international partnerships and showcased Edmonton as a UNESCO Learning City, highlighting its commitment to inclusive, sustainable learning. The conference’s alignment with Edmonton’s educational and sustainability goals underpinned its success, engaging local and global educational communities in meaningful dialogues about open education’s future and its impact on global challenges.

With its diverse program and focus on sustainability and Indigenous Ways of Knowing, the conference promoted NorQuest College and Edmonton as leaders in open education. The event’s success, reflected in its record attendance and positive feedback, underscored the city’s growing reputation as a center for educational excellence and innovation. The OE Global Conference 2023 not only contributed to Edmonton’s educational landscape but also enhanced its profile on the international stage, cementing its position as a city that values and promotes open and inclusive education for all.

 

FESTIVAL OF THE YEAR AWARD

Established in 1982, the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is North America’s largest and longest-running festival of its kind, offering a platform for artists to present unjuried and uncensored performances. This festival has become a hallmark of Edmonton’s cultural identity, embodying the spirit of fringe theatre with its innovative, diverse, and boundary-pushing performances. In 2023, the festival facilitated a remarkable exchange between artists and audiences, featuring 184 productions with 1,409 performances, selling over 115,000 tickets, and returning $1.2 million in ticket revenue directly to the artists.

The festival’s success is built on the support of a vast network of volunteers and arts workers, emphasizing Edmonton’s commitment to nurturing artistic talent and supporting the creative economy. Beyond the immediate spectacle of theatre, the festival significantly impacts the local economy, driving over $16 million in economic activity through the hospitality, retail, and transportation sectors.

The Edmonton Fringe Festival not only showcases Edmonton’s thriving arts scene but also elevates the city’s profile on the international stage. With a legacy of fostering artistic risk and community engagement, the festival represents a critical node in the global fringe network, influencing similar festivals worldwide. Through its continued evolution, the Edmonton Fringe Festival exemplifies the city’s dedication to arts and culture, making it a pivotal event in Edmonton’s annual cultural calendar and a significant contributor to its artistic and economic vitality.

 

DESTINATION EVENT OF THE YEAR AWARD

The 2023 Juno Awards, hosted at Rogers Place in Edmonton, represented a pinnacle of Canadian music, celebrating artistic excellence and diversity. As the first Juno event since 2019 to be held on the road, it marked a significant cultural moment for Edmonton, drawing national and international attention. With live performances and award presentations by Canada’s top musical talents, the event reached a broadcast audience of 2.95 million, contributing to a cumulative media impression of 5.8 billion.

The Juno Awards served not only as a platform for showcasing established and emerging artists but also emphasized the diversity of Canadian music, with over 60% of the performers being BIPOC. The event facilitated a substantial economic influx, generating $11.7 million in local economic activity and supporting numerous jobs.

The week-long celebration included various public and industry events, demonstrating Edmonton’s ability to host large-scale, multifaceted gatherings. The Junos effectively marketed Edmonton as a bustling cultural hub, leveraging a $5.5 million marketing campaign and collaborations with key stakeholders to highlight the city’s attractions and hospitality.

By engaging a wide array of public activities, the Juno Awards fostered community involvement and showcased Edmonton’s capacity for hosting premier national events, solidifying its standing in the Canadian music industry and cultural landscape.

 

THE CULINARY TOURISM AWARD

Prairie Gardens Longtable Farm Dinner Program is a beacon of culinary excellence and sustainable agriculture. It offers an authentic farm-to-table experience that captivates the essence of Alberta’s agricultural heritage. The program’s foundation is built on three core objectives: cultivating a taste of place, supporting small-scale farmers, and creating sustainable farm practices, all of which are met with fervour and commitment.

At the heart of Prairie Gardens’ culinary ethos is the desire to provide guests with a genuine connection to the land and its produce. Dinners are crafted around what the farm grows, reflecting the season’s bounty and showcasing the flavours unique to the region. This approach promotes biodiversity and encourages the cultivation of a wide variety of crops, supporting the local ecosystem and economy.

The program champions small-scale farmers, sourcing ingredients locally to create menus that are a celebration of Alberta’s diversity. This is done to support the livelihoods of local producers as well as reduce the environmental impact associated with food transportation, aligning with the farm’s sustainability goals.

Prairie Gardens provides more than just a meal; it’s an immersive experience where guests can engage with the farming process, understand the journey of food from seed to plate, and appreciate the intricate relationship between agriculture and cuisine. Collaborations with local chefs, artisans, and beverage makers enhance the dining experience to create a symphony of flavours that resonate with the land’s heritage.

The Longtable Farm Dinner Program at Prairie Gardens is an embodiment of culinary innovation and sustainable practice. It offers a memorable experience that epitomizes the spirit of Alberta’s farm-to-table movement.

 

ATTRACTION OF THE YEAR AWARD

TELUS World of Science – Edmonton is an iconic institution in the heart of Edmonton, fostering curiosity and discovery for over four decades. Welcoming more than 17.8 million visitors since its inception, this educational landmark offers a plethora of engaging and interactive exhibits, captivating IMAX Theatre presentations, and the immersive Zeidler Dome Planetarium. In 2023, the Science Centre witnessed a remarkable 55% surge in attendance, thanks to its efforts to remain inclusive of Edmonton’s Indigenous communities and the city’s 2SLGBTQIA+ population.

The centre’s commitment to inclusivity and educational outreach is evident in its array of programs that reach beyond its walls, impacting over 90,000 students annually across Alberta and Northern Canada. Through innovative exhibitions and programming, including the Aurora Project’s $41 million renovation, the Science Centre has redefined its space to enhance visitor experience and engagement, further solidifying its status as a community hub and educational pioneer.

The economic impact of the Science Centre on the local and regional economy is huge, with substantial operating revenues supporting employment and local businesses, while attracting tourists that bolster the hospitality and services sectors. By generating 80% of its operating budget through earned revenues, the centre exemplifies a sustainable model for cultural and educational institutions. TELUS World of Science – Edmonton, through its innovative exhibits, community engagement, and educational programs, continues to be a beacon of inspiration and a cornerstone of Edmonton’s cultural and economic landscape.

 

TOURISM BUSINESS OF THE YEAR AWARD

Over 50 employees

West Edmonton Mall (WEM), an iconic destination within Edmonton, and Canada as a whole, plays a monumental role in the tourism industry, drawing guests from all corners of the globe. With its extensive selection of over 800 stores and restaurants, coupled with 12 world-class attractions, WEM offers an unparalleled shopping and entertainment experience. Attractions like the World Waterpark, Galaxyland powered by Hasbro, DRIVE Go Karts, and Professor WEM’s Adventure Golf cater to a diverse range of visitors, ensuring an enjoyable and memorable visit for everyone.

WEM’s commitment to providing the best possible experience for guests is evidenced by its array of offerings that cater to various tastes and preferences, from thrilling rides to relaxing staycation amenities. Its status as a world-class destination promotes Edmonton as a prime location to visit and live, enhancing the city’s tourism appeal.

The mall’s integration into the community is significant, demonstrated through numerous partnerships with charities and hosting fundraising events, reflecting its commitment to social responsibility. Additionally, WEM’s strategy for long-term viability and success is shown through its continuous adaptation and evolution to meet the changing needs and preferences of visitors.

WEM’s contribution to the tourism industry is substantial, with past studies highlighting its considerable economic impact, including billions in incremental expenditures and significant employment generation in Alberta. By ensuring visitor satisfaction through exceptional service, diverse attractions, and robust community engagement, WEM stands as a leading candidate for the Tourism Business of the Year Award.

 

Under 50 employees

The Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market (OSFM) is an established culinary and agricultural tourism hub in Edmonton, connecting visitors with the city’s local flavours and crafts. Hosting 140 vendors year-round, OSFM offers an extensive mix of products, from diverse foods and handmade items to award-winning alcoholic beverages, providing a unique market experience unmatched in the region.

OSFM’s strategic revitalization responds to increased demand for longer operational hours and enhanced services, aiming to provide visitors with more choice and improved access. Innovations like Curbside Carryout enhance the customer experience, allowing guests to enjoy the market longer without the inconvenience of carrying purchases.

This market delivers a distinctive shopping experience and actively contributes to Edmonton’s tourism landscape. The demand for culinary and agricultural tourism is significant, and OSFM’s role in satisfying this demand is evident through its impressive visitor numbers and recognition by major tourism and travel organizations.

OSFM’s innovative approach to product and service development, including plans for expanded operations and the introduction of unique spaces like a General Store and cafe, positions it as a leader in the local and provincial tourism sector. These initiatives promise to transform OSFM into a dynamic destination that attracts a larger visitor base, promoting Edmonton as a premier location for farm-to-fork experiences.

With a strong focus on human resources development and creating an inclusive environment, OSFM supports a diverse workforce and vendorship, contributing to the market’s vibrancy and appeal. Its ongoing efforts to innovate and improve the visitor experience make OSFM a deserving nominee for the Tourism Business of the Year Award.

 

BEST TOURISM INFLUENCER AWARD

Linda Hoang, known as “lindork” online, is an important figure in Edmonton’s tourism scene. She seamlessly combines her love for the city with her expertise in content creation. Since transitioning to a full-time influencer in 2019, after a decade of part-time engagement, Linda has consistently elevated Edmonton’s profile through her engaging and informative content. Her blog and social media platforms brim with recommendations for dining, events, and activities, reflecting her deep-rooted passion for the city.

Linda’s curated guides and weekly listings embody her commitment to showcasing Edmonton’s vibrant culture and local businesses. Her notable collaborations with organizations like Explore Edmonton and the Downtown Business Association have amplified the city’s tourism appeal, drawing attention to events and initiatives that celebrate Edmonton’s dynamic spirit.

Her strategic approach to content creation, coupled with her marketing and communications background, ensures that her promotions are not only appealing but also meaningful and impactful. Linda’s dedication to highlighting minority and women-owned businesses further enriches her narrative, offering a comprehensive view of the city’s diverse tourism landscape.

Linda’s consistent engagement with her audience through various platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, and her blog, underpins her reputation as a trustworthy and influential voice in tourism. Her impressive analytics, with thousands of followers and high engagement rates, underscore her influence and reach.

Given her extensive contributions to Edmonton’s tourism industry, Linda Hoang exemplifies the essence of a leading tourism influencer. Her strategic, ethical, and passionate promotion of Edmonton enhances the city’s tourism appeal and fosters a deeper appreciation and understanding of its unique character and offerings.

 

SPECIAL MENTION AWARD

The National Gathering of Elders, an event of profound cultural and historical significance, represents a major convergence of Indigenous Elders and youth from across North America. This assembly in Edmonton is not just a meeting but a celebration of Indigenous culture, wisdom, and tradition, attended by 5,000 participants. It serves as a dynamic platform for discussing important topics like language revitalization, reconciliation, justice, health, and wellness, alongside showcasing rich cultural expressions through Powwow dancers, jiggers, fiddlers, and Inuit performers.

The event’s primary objectives are manifold: creating a safe, inclusive environment for knowledge exchange, educating people of all backgrounds on Indigenous experiences and aspirations, and compiling a lasting record of the Elders’ wisdom for future generations. By meeting these objectives, the gathering underscores its role as an important cultural repository and a beacon of learning and understanding.

Organized with respect for traditional protocols, the gathering ensures authentic representation and respectful ceremony execution. The Elders’ committee, supported by a technical team, oversees the event, emphasizing the importance of tradition, security, and hospitality. This careful organization and dedication to protocol affirm the gathering’s authenticity and reverence for Indigenous cultures.

The National Gathering of Elders significantly impacts Edmonton’s tourism and economy, drawing attendees who engage with local businesses and attractions, thereby stimulating economic activity. It also promotes and advances cultural activity in the region, highlighting the importance of Indigenous cultures and languages while cultivating networks and initiatives that support cultural preservation and education.

The gathering’s educational impact is profound. It offers workshops and discussions that provide deep insights into First Nation, Inuit, and Métis cultures. Funded through various governmental and community sources, this event embodies a collective effort to honour and perpetuate Indigenous heritage.

 

HOTELIER LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Garrett Turta, with over 33 years in the hospitality industry, has made significant contributions to Edmonton’s hotel scene, particularly through his leadership and innovation. As a graduate of the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology’s Hotel and Restaurant Administration program, Garrett’s career has been marked by ascending leadership roles within the Fairmont chain, culminating in his current position as the General Manager of the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.

His strategic vision led to the creation of Edmonton’s Best Hotels, a brand under Edmonton Destination Marketing Hotels, enhancing the city’s hospitality sector’s visibility and appeal. Garrett’s leadership has been instrumental in navigating economic challenges, advocating for the hotel community, and driving initiatives that broadened the industry’s reach and impact.

Beyond his professional achievements, Garrett has demonstrated a profound commitment to community service and the betterment of the hospitality industry. His involvement in educational and tourism boards, charitable initiatives, and environmental stewardship illustrates a holistic approach to leadership that encompasses business success, community engagement, and sustainable practices.

Garrett’s legacy in the hotel industry is not just in the success of the properties he has managed but also in the lasting positive impact he has made on the community and the industry at large. His comprehensive approach to leadership, characterized by collaboration, innovation, and community involvement, makes him an exemplary figure in Edmonton’s hotel industry.

 

Peter Parmar’s career spans over 40 years, during which he has left an indelible mark on Edmonton’s hotel industry. His innovative and strategic leadership has played a vital role in the growth and success of numerous establishments, notably the Fantasyland Hotel, where he significantly increased revenue through creative marketing and sales initiatives. His vision and business acumen have led to the successful operation of 14 hotels, contributing substantially to the hospitality sector’s development in Edmonton and beyond.

Peter’s influence is not limited to his professional achievements but is also evident in his extensive volunteer work and service. As a respected figure in the hospitality industry, he has been an active advocate, representing and promoting the sector’s interests at various levels. His leadership and efforts in the Alberta Hotel and Lodging Association and other tourism-related organizations have been pivotal in addressing key challenges and advancing the industry’s goals.

His dedication to community service and philanthropy, coupled with his contributions to the hospitality and tourism sectors, underscore his comprehensive impact on Edmonton’s cultural and economic landscape. Peter’s ability to innovate, inspire, and lead makes him a deserving candidate for the Hotelier Lifetime Achievement Award, reflecting his profound influence on the industry and community.

 

With over 38 years of dedicated service in the tourism, hospitality, and convention sectors, Richard Wong has become a pivotal figure in Edmonton’s hotel industry. His journey in Edmonton began in 2003, and since then, he has passionately contributed to the city’s and province’s hospitality landscape. His leadership roles at significant establishments like Sutton Place Hotel, Chateau Lacombe Hotel, and the Edmonton Convention Centre highlight his ability to transform and elevate these institutions to new heights of success and recognition.

Under Richard’s guidance, the Edmonton Convention Centre was acclaimed as the top venue in Canada and among the top five in North America, showcasing his skill in enhancing operational excellence and reputation. His tenure as President of Nova Hotels saw him steering the company through significant growth, including overseeing 15 hotels across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the Northwest Territories, and reinforcing the brand’s presence in the Edmonton area.

Richard’s influence extends beyond his professional achievements to significant community and industry contributions. His extensive involvement with organizations like the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, and Edmonton Economic Development Corporation underlines his commitment to the city’s welfare and progress. His leadership in various hospitality and tourism boards has been instrumental in advocating for and advancing the sector’s interests, ensuring Edmonton remains a competitive destination in the national and international markets.