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Banff natural park tourism

Marketing Canada’s first national park with a data-driven approach

Everything the DMO Banff & Lake Louise Tourism does start with the brand. “We strive to get an emotional connection with our visitors,” explains Diane Bures. The reason is that destinations can look similar to each other. The DMO, where 30 people work, talked with tourists in order to be able to understand how tourists feel as soon as they visit the area. Many quotes were related to how visitors experienced nature. What became evident, was the emotional connection with Banff. Movie brand story “Banff & Lake Louise Alive” A visit to Banff national park means a rare experience, an indelible awe, that will last forever. This blog emphasizes on one of the Next Tourism Generation (NTG) sub-sectors, destination management organizations, and what skills are necessary in order to protect the national park from impacts of tourism.


The rise of tourism in Canada, Banff


Unlike many other mountain towns that began as mining settlements, Banff was established in the 1880s with tourism front of mind. During the 1870s, the website of the Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) Banff and Lake Louise describes, construction started on the ambitious Canadian Pacific Railway, a coast-to-coast railway across Canada. The planned route tracked through the Bow Valley in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It was there, at “Siding 29”, that three Canadian Pacific Railway workers in 1883 stumbled on a series of natural hot springs on what is now called Sulphur Mountain.

The Cave and Basin hot springs were quickly identified as a potential hot tourist attraction. Competing claims by ‘discoverers’ of the springs for the right to develop them prompted the Canadian government in 1885 to create a reserve to protect the springs and the surrounding area. Enlarged in 1887 and named the “Rocky Mountains Park of Canada” (later to be renamed Banff National Park), it was Canada’s first national park and the world’s third. The townsite was established, a hotel was quickly built, and the area was soon being promoted as an international resort and spa.

Since then, Banff & Lake Louise has continued to attract tourists from around the world for the same reasons that drew those first visitors: the easy access to stunning mountains, lakes, and valleys. In 1984, the Banff National Park was included in the “Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks” UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognizing its “exceptional natural beauty” and “striking mountain landscape”.


Rocky Mountain peaks, turquoise glacial lakes, a picture-perfect mountain town and village, abundant wildlife and scenic drives come together in Banff National Park – Canada’s first national park and the flagship of the nation’s park system.” 


How to protect a national park from the impacts of tourism?


Four million visitors per year visit Banff national park and the high season, with 2.2 million visitors lasts from June till September. How to prevent congestion? Diane says it is important to work together with Parks Canada and the other stakeholders, such as the Town of Banff and its residents. It is this holistic approach that is important. The park receives many visitors, but all travel by car. For that reason, it was important to develop a communication strategy that not only educates visitors on how to get to the park by shuttles but also influences their behavior regarding traveling by car and/or visiting the park in the early morning or late afternoon instead of during peak hours. “The best Banff national park experience happens when you step out your vehicle and explore the park,” was one of the slogans.

Changing behavior takes time, however. The website ExplorethePark.ca has now been viewed 47,000 times and the transit and shuttle ridership has increased with 53% since the start of this new communication strategy.


How to measure the value of Banff national park bookers


The DMO used conversion pixel, which is a way to understand if your ads are effectively generating conversions. For example, by using conversion pixel Banff national park got confirmed that most visitors come from Canada and the USA and that it takes Australian visitors 33 days before they book, compared to 3 or 4 days for Canadian visitors. Conversion pixel helps you to better understand your visitors and as a consequence, helps you to take better marketing decisions. As a result, this tool does not only help you to measure the ‘quality’ of leads. It also helps to see what geo markets visit Banff national park and how long it takes viewers to book.

How do you get people to do more

According to Google, 85% of U.S. leisure travelers decide on activities only after having arrived at the destination. Moreover, nearly nine out of ten travelers expect their travel provider to share relevant information while t. As a result, the DMO wanted to launch a new campaign when visitation was at its peak. This would be carried out during high season from June till September. The DMO  wanted to motivate visitors to become active as they would be more likely to promote the destination online. It also wanted to implement location tracking services on mobile devices as soon as people were in the park.  

This experiment was called the Hyper Mobile Campaign: “Explore and do more in breathtaking Banff & Lake Louise”. With this technology, organizations can reach qualified, localized customers by geo-targeting them in real time. This can be done with mobile ads based on their location, the time of day, the weather, and other contextual factors. Based on their past behavior, organizations can eventually retarget local customers. Some do’s and don’ts are described here. 

What the DMO Banff & Lake Louise learned from this experiment was that straight advertising messages were more successful than brand awareness in general. It concluded that a multi-channel approach would even improve conversation.


Key takeaways


According to Diane, collaboration is the key when you are protecting a national park such as Banff. As soon as you have decided that you want to influence the behavior of the visitor, be aware: this takes time… Moreover, measuring the quality of leads is a great way to show the value of a DMO. Last but not least, use technology to get people to do more at the destination.


Follow the efforts of the Next Tourism Generation via our website, Facebook, Twitter | #NTGskillsalliance or via LinkedIn


BMiranda Cornelisse, MSc., Rotterdam University of Applied SciencesMiranda is lecturer Global Marketing & Sales and researcher at Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences. As a researcher, she is specialized in sustainability, experience design and online marketing & branding in tourism. In her academic research (PhD) she currently focuses on how (online) tourist experiences can contribute to the sustainability of tourism destinations.




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