The 2019 Growing Rural Tourism Conference Presents: "Be the Change"

"The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking." — Albert Einstein

More speakers. More ideas. More tourism.

Growing Rural Tourism 2019 will feature a great selection of speakers and experts from across the country. Each of our speakers have been specifically chosen because they are exciting, dynamic and invested in using their sessions to educate our attendees.

Keynotes Speakers

Darian Kovacs

Founding Partner Jelly Marketing & Co-Founder Canadian Internet Marketing Conference

7 Reasons Why PR is Worth the Hustle

It's often said that there's something magical about public relations in business. A lot of time and resources go into this marketing method, but what is so special about it and why should businesses invest in it? Darian Kovacs, PR mastermind and Managing Partner of the award-winning Jelly Digital Marketing and PR explains how PR can, and will, bring the "WOW" factor to your business.

Darian brings over 15 years of experience in marketing, communications and public relations. Throughout his career, he has also been a founder and board member of various foundations and charitable organizations.

Through his award-winning company, Jelly Marketing, Darian has worked with various local, national and global brands building and executing on their digital & PR strategy. He co-founded the Canadian Internet Marketing Conference and he's been featured in BC Business magazine, Business in Vancouver and on the Canada Post training circuit. He is a contributor with Small Business BC, Entrepreneur, and both Rogers and Shaw's Business Resource Centre on topics of Social Media and PR.

As both an educator and practitioner, Darian's mix of stories, practical examples and takeaways leaves audiences feeling inspired and equipped to implement social media and PR strategies into their organizations.

Adam Legge

Director at the Canadian Centre for Advanced Leadership at the University of Calgary

Adam believes in the potential of leaders to make their organizations remarkable and do work that can change their communities and the world.

Adam works with executives, leaders and boards to help them achieve remarkability through organizational renewal and transformation. Amidst the challenges of disruption, change and complexity, he uses a proven structure that will enable any organization to move from stale or struggling to remarkable. He brings over twenty years of experience in leadership, governance, strategy, culture and change to help his clients create greater impact, relevance and value as an organization. He is the author of Making Remarkable: How to Deliver Purpose, Inspire People, and Build a Platform for Exceptional Results.

Adam is a recipient of the Calgary Top 40 Under 40, and in November of 2017 was awarded a Canada Senate 150 Medal by the Senate of Canada to only 1,500 Canadians for their work and dedication in improving the quality of life in their communities.

Mike Armstrong

Brand Strategy Lead at Google

The Rise of Micro Brands and Application within Tourism

Small and scrappy brands we've never heard of have been making major inroads against large legacy companies across most industries. A deeper look into the commonalities within this trend and what can be applied to drive disruption within tourism.

Brand obsessed, forever curious, and itching for transformative ideas, Mike draws on his experience building corporate-wide marketing for Kraft Foods, leading iconic brands such as Stella Artois and Budweiser, overseeing a content marketing group at the CBC, and finally consulting on behalf of Google for fortune 500 companies.

As a Brand Strategy Lead at Google, he studies bleeding-edge brand building tactics executed across the globe and engages with Canadian marketing executives to assist in propelling their businesses forward. As a trained facilitator within Google, Mike’s been taught the science, psychology, and conditions required to inject fresh ideas into everyday thinking and the workshops he leads. He’s also developed unparalleled expertise when advertising within one of the world’s most influential brands – YouTube.

Mike’s seen his campaigns scale to countries worldwide, won numerous industry awards, judged at local and international creative competitions, and recently had his work published on Think with Google.


Sam Schofield

Owner of Mountain Drift

Introduction and Advice on Creating Stories for Facebook & Instagram

To meet the challenges of today’s business climate, Sam and his partner provide a unique, more personal approach to marketing and branding your business. Running a one-stop marketing and media company in rural Southern Alberta, their goal is simple: to help businesses succeed in small towns across the province.

Together they have witnessed change in the web, mobile and social media industries. Embracing technology to tell a story is at the forefront of their strategy when working with business owners. Today, they deliver brand loyalty programs through careful planning, design and education.

Sheila Willis

Creator of History Check Mobile App

From Housewife to Award Winner:
The Accidental Entrepreneur

In this interactive session, Sheila will demo History Check, show you how to participate as well as talk about the importance of creating alliances and partnerships, using social media, and stepping out of your comfort zone to “Be the Change”.

What started out as an idea to share historical sites and stories on a mobile app, turned into a project that is an all inclusive travel companion app through partnerships, cooperation and collaboration.

A self described housewife from the bush, in 2018 Sheila Willis received an Outstanding Achievement Award from Alberta Historical Resources Foundation in part for the development of the History Check Mobile App. Future goals include making History Check a province wide initiative, as well as taking it to an international market as a white label product for geographical regions and sector marketing and education.

Lisa Lima

Travel Alberta Manager, Experience Development West Central & Edmonton

Making Memorable Experiences: An Introduction to Experience Development

Lisa J. Lima is a Cultural Explorer and Experience Development Manager for Edmonton and Central Alberta. She enjoys travelling throughout the province assisting industry stakeholders with tourism marketing and partnership development.Lisa gets a thrill when presenting workshops in her region and engaging in tourism conversations – it’s not just about the topic she is presenting, but also the sharing of stories and the learning between everyone in the room. Culinary Tourism is one of Lisa’s focuses; she works with the Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance and is a member of Skal International.

You’ll learn about how developing great experiences can be your best marketing tool. And, you’ll be introduced to tourism experiences from Alberta and Canada that will spark new ideas on how you can develop or be a partner for a tourism experience that provides your visitors with a true sense of place.

Laura McGowan & Mackenzie Brown

Alberta Culture and Tourism

Collaborating with Indigenous Communities for Tourism

Laura has worked with Alberta Culture and Tourism for 10 years on a variety of projects across the province - and with specializations in sustainable tourism, culinary tourism, workforce development, accessibility. She is currently the Indigenous Tourism Development Lead working closely with Indigenous attractions and organizations such as the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada and Indigenous Tourism Alberta. She holds a BA in Tourism from the University of Calgary and an masters in Responsible Tourism Management from the University of Greenwich in the UK.

Mackenzie Brown is a First Nations Cree woman from the Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation, currently residing in Amiskwaciwaskahikan, Edmonton. She is a performer, drummer, tourism entrepreneur, philanthropist and advocate for at-risk youth in the Edmonton area. Mackenzie currently works as an Indigenous Tourism Developer for the Government of Alberta. Mackenzie and her mom perform as “Warrior Women”. They drum and teach around Alberta for the Northern Alberta Teachers Conference, the annual Jasper Dark Skies Festival, Youth Dream Catchers Conference, Canada Day, Aboriginal Day festivities and more. Along with drumming, Mackenzie is also an avid acrylic artist and traditional First Nations crafts artisan. Her art has been featured in the Pump House Gallery, the Edson Gallery Museum, the Gray Gallery Grant MacEwan, recognized for the Alberta Indian Arts and Crafts Award of 2017, featured for the Alberta Business Competition 2017 and sold to people travelling world wide at Jasper Park Lodge.

Alexis Nelson

Alberta Culture & Tourism Development Officer

Alexis Nelson is a free spirit. Growing up on a dairy farm with her parents, siblings, cousins, and grandparents have provided her the passion for working in a team setting and the courage to address life and business with a collaborative approach. Having the opportunity to enjoy both urban and rural lifestyles has also provided her with the platform to connect and share ideas for exceptional experiences. Working as a Tourism Development Officer with Alberta Culture and Tourism, she plays an integral role in the development of projects, programs, and services that inform and support work with destination marketing organizations, municipalities, and non-profits who contribute to the economic growth and diversification in the province.

When she’s not trying to conquer the world, you will find Alexis outdoors with her family embracing hiking and quadding.

Glenda Beagle

Marketing & Mindset Coaching

The Internet is Killing Your Business, & Other Lies You Tell Yourself

In this session, the discussion will revolve around the obstacles business owners place in front of their consumers, that cause them to shop elsewhere. As business owners it is our responsibility to give consumers a reason to do business with us. An address does not dictate where your consumers need to make their purchases. We always need to ask ourselves, are you creating an experience or a transaction?

Born and raised in rural Alberta, Glenda comes straight out of the entrepreneurial trenches. Small business runs through her veins. Following the last eight years as a successful business owner, Glenda has shifted her attention to coaching business owners, so they can have a bigger impact in their community. With a passion for helping others to maximize their profits, Glenda works with entrepreneurs to examine the way they view and execute their business.

Noelle Aune

Principal Noelle Aune Communications

Working with Influencers

Noelle is a strategic, results-driven senior communications professional with over 20 years of experience in the tourism, entertainment and lifestyle sector, managing multifaceted events and media campaigns. Noelle and her team develop practical plans that establish awareness and support within clearly defined objectives. Noelle worked on the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, brought the Live with Kelly show to Banff and managed many celebrity events in leadership roles with Travel Alberta. Noelle pivoted her career in 2013 and founded Noelle Aune Communications. Based in Calgary, Noelle is known as a leader in Public Relations, influencer relations, consumer activations, social media, events and paid media.

Noelle has created and executed many high profile events and has extensive experience developing influencer campaigns for the Calgary Stampede, Canadian Badlands and Beakerhead. Her client list also includes Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park, Waterton Lakes National Park, Cranbrook Tourism, Pure North, and more.

Noelle is the co-chair of the Travel Media Association of Canada Alberta / North West Territories chapter, a travel addict, book-lover, coffee connoisseur, and she spends her free time exploring new paths with her rescue dog, Blaze.

Tarra Wright Many Chief

Executive Director of Indigenous Tourism Alberta

Tarra Wright Many Chief is from the Treaty Seven community of Blood Tribe (Kainai Nation) in southern Alberta. Based in Calgary, Wright Many Chief is the Executive Director of the newly formed Indigenous Tourism Alberta. She earned a Bachelor of Management from the University of Lethbridge in 2012, with a focus on accounting and First Nations governance.

Indigenous Tourism Alberta’s mandate to grow the Indigenous tourism economy in Alberta, through leadership in the development and marketing of authentic Indigenous tourism experience across Alberta. Indigenous tourism currently generates $130 million in spending in Alberta, providing jobs and supporting entrepreneurs, businesses and communities.

In addition to her work with ITAC, Wright Many Chief has years of experience working directly with Indigenous communities in Alberta to support a range of policies, programs and initiatives that build respectful and trusting working relationships with stakeholders. She has worked with Community Futures Treaty Seven for the delivery of the First Nations Youth Trades Exposure Camp, and as a trainer for a First Nations entrepreneur camp. In 2013, the Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth: New Tribe Magazine featured Wright Many Chief on its cover as a community role model.

Stephan Becker

Manager of ATB BoostR

Crowdfunding 101

Learn all about the power of the crowd and how it could help you grow and finance your business.

Stephan Becker is the manager of ATB BoostR, ATB FInancials own crowdfunding platform. Though his work with BoostR he has seen more than a 100 different businesses launch their crowdfunding campaign and business ideas to the public. Over the years he has coached and advised several small business in Alberta and is keen to support anyone he can.

Pre-Conference Workshops

Pre-Conference Workshops will be taking place on
Monday February 11th, 2019 from
10:00 am — 11:45 am

Sam Schofield

Owner of Mountain Drift

How to Create Your First Successful Facebook Ad Campaign

To meet the challenges of today’s business climate, Sam and his partner provide a unique, more personal approach to marketing and branding your business. Running a one-stop marketing and media company in rural Southern Alberta, their goal is simple: to help businesses succeed in small towns across the province.

Together they have witnessed change in the web, mobile and social media industries. Embracing technology to tell a story is at the forefront of their strategy when working with business owners. Today, they deliver brand loyalty programs through careful planning, design and education.

Lisa Lima

Travel Alberta Manager, Experience Development West Central & Edmonton

Building Strategies for Partnerships & Packaging

Like most tourism businesses, you’re looking for creative and cost-effective ways to reach new customers and increase your sales. This workshop helps you explore the many ways you can work with other businesses to meet your objectives.

You’ll be introduced to information and real-life examples that will show you how partnerships with other businesses can be mutually beneficial. We’ll look at how partnerships can create packaged experiences – bringing together multiple opportunities that travellers can purchase with one easy step. Plus, we’ll talk about how to create a package by combining activities offered by your business alone.

Partnering and packaging are part of the marketing mix; join us to find out more about how they can create new opportunities for your business.

WHY Should I Attend the
Growing Rural Tourism Conference?

Conference Scholarship


The Growing Rural Tourism Conference supports continuous learning and innovative educational opportunities for rural Alberta business. This year we will partially sponsor individual business owners or managers to attend the Growing Rural Tourism Conference.


Individual business owners, managers and full-time students who:

  • Presently own and operate a full-time tourism business in rural Alberta or businesses looking to incorporate tourism products or experiences into their existing business
  • Students enrolled in a full-time tourism program
    Students must include which post-secondary institution and tourism program (s) they are enrolled in
  • Are committed to lifelong learning
  • Willing to write a summary report and share their ideas and experiences with their community partners, consortia, chamber, colleges, etc.
  • Must be a first time applicant


The scholarship will pay 50% of a regular conference registration. All travel and accommodation expenses are the responsibility of the participant.


Space is limited to 25 participants, and will be offered on a first come, first served basis to eligible applicants. The conference committee will review the applications and notify the successful candidates.


There are a lot of great places to stay near the conference in Camrose. Below you can see the Growing Rural Tourism Conference Hotel Block:

Camrose Resort & Casino

(780) 679-2379

** Please mention that you are a Growing Rural Tourism Delegate when booking at the hotel of your choice to recieve one of the blocked off rooms.

Our Partners

The Growing Rural Tourism Conference would not be possible if it was not for the generous support of our partners. We are extremely grateful for their help in making the Conference possible!

Please join us in thanking the following organizations:

Take a look back at the 2018 conference.

The 2018 conference was a huge success with the theme "Experience the Change". We are extremely excited about this year's conference where we will "Be the Change".

12th Annual Awards Gala

The following awards will given out on Wednesday February 12th during the 12th Annual Growing Rural Tourism Awards Gala:

  • Wynn McLean Rural Champion Award
  • People's Choice Award
  • Rural Tourism Operator of the Year Award
  • Rural Tourism Community of the Year
  • Online Marketing Campaign Award