Home Featured EEDC Helping Festivals Flourish

Helping Festivals Flourish

How Edmonton Tourism partners with festivals to drive sustainable visitation year-round

Edmonton Folk Music Festival. Photo source: EEDC.

Deeply collaborative partnerships have allowed Edmonton’s reputation as the Festival City to flourish. Festival coordinators never need to work alone or ride solo; Edmonton Tourism acts as a resource that encourages development, promotes success and ensures that visitors keep coming back for more.

If you’re in Edmonton, chances are there’s a festival going on. In the summer, you can watch indie-theatre and devour green onion cakes at the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival, or BYOB (as in, bring your own blanket) and take in the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. When winter rolls around, festivals like Silver Skate and Flying Canoë Volant will have you forgetting about the chill in the air and remembering the joy winter brought when making a snowman was the only task on your to-do list. With over 50 festivals annually, every season is festival season — whether it’s 30 degrees above or below.

Edmonton Tourism (a division of Edmonton Economic Development Corporation), works to build the city’s reputation as a premiere destination. Their goal is to drive sustainable, year-round visitation and awareness in regional and international markets. The team helps secure funding, increase out-of-town visitation, and enhance visitor experiences.

Long before the festival tents go up, Edmonton Tourism is behind the scenes working with partners. As one of the very first touch points in the organization, the Tourism Development team works closely with local attractions and festivals to help them create and refine unique products. They assist events in securing funding and provide insight into how Edmonton’s festivals can stand out on the world stage. The team recently helped both Silver Skate Festival and Flying Canoë Volant Festival obtain additional dollars from the Canadian Experiences Fund. This will allow for the addition of new programming elements, which will be implemented over the 2019-2020 festival season.

“Edmonton Tourism has been instrumental in helping us realize our dream. In the beginning it was just an idea, but with the ongoing support and encouragement from [Edmonton Tourism], Flying Canoë Volant is only now touching on its full potential as a unique Edmonton winter experience and story,” says Daniel Cournoyer, producer of Flying Canoë Volant Festival.

Once the festivals are export ready, Edmonton Tourism’s Travel Media team works with travel writers, editors, bloggers, social influencers and photographers from around the world to produce content that maximizes consumer awareness of Edmonton and creates exposure for the city’s top-tier events and experiences. The team assists in enhancing the reputation of Edmonton’s festivals by coordinating interviews, creating custom itineraries and hosting press visits with international media. A single article can reach hundreds of thousands of people, further supporting individual festivals well into the future.

“Edmonton Tourism has been instrumental in increasing awareness of Silver Skate and our brand locally, nationally and internationally. We are blessed to be working with this incredible team,” says Erin Di Loreto, executive producer of Silver Skate Festival.

The Travel Trade team members are the ambassadors that work to sell Canada’s northernmost major city to tour operators around the world. They coordinate and lead familiarization tours that help acquaint operators with Edmonton’s offerings and work closely with the Tourism Development team to promote newly created, export-ready experiences. For example, Travel Trade will be able to sell the new programming that Silver Skate Festival is adding in the 2020 festival season.

Through digital and social media campaigns, Edmonton Tourism’s Marketing team works to promote festivals both regionally and internationally— inspiring travellers to explore Edmonton through out-of-the-box content, stunning visuals and compelling stories. The team recently received an Alto Award for Marketing Excellence at the Travel Alberta Industry Conference for their campaign work in collaboration with the Edmonton Heritage Festival. By working closely with partners like Heritage Festival’s executive director, Jim Gibbon, Edmonton Tourism extends awareness of the city’s festivals well beyond city limits.

“The Edmonton Heritage Festival Association has been working with Edmonton Tourism to increase awareness of our summer festival outside of the Capital region. We have seen substantive, measurable growth in visits (both electronic and in person) from targeted areas. The program has been so successful, we are planning to expand it this year,” says Gibbon.

Last summer the team decided to utilize the draw of Edmonton’s larger staple festivals to increase awareness of other emerging festivals. By grouping them together by month, the marketing team was able to promote the collective more effectively. The 2019 Summer Festival Marketing Campaign included 13 festivals— from long-running heavy-hitters like Taste of Edmonton to exciting up-and-comers like EPCOR’s RiverFest. Uniting the diverse offerings in a single Explore Edmonton branded initiative has resulted in more widely viewed content at a much lower cost to each festival. This joint-marketing campaign was also a finalist for Marketing Excellence at Travel Alberta’s Alto Awards.

Finally, the Edmonton Experience team engages with visitors through face-to-face conversations via their Explore Edmonton Street Team, a group of passionate YEG Experts who have turned the traditional visitor centre into a mobile experience. They hit the ground running equipped with custom activations that enhance festival programming and facilitate conversations to promote all the great things to see and do in Edmonton. This team also provides value to festival partners by collecting data through visitor surveys. The survey results help inform future marketing decisions and assist in calculating economic impact for the city.

Maintaining Edmonton’s reputation as “Festival City” starts and ends with the local trailblazers that help make these vibrant events possible. Collaborating with Edmonton Tourism ensures that festivals continue to be a powerful driver for economic success well into the future.