The 2017 Growing Rural Tourism Conference Presents: "Ignite 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

The conference is pleased to present the Third Annual Entrepreneurship Challenge. The challenge will help tourism operators develop new products and experiences and grow their businesses. Participants will receive valuable feedback from industry experts to kick-start their projects.

Enjoy an evening Networking Dinner and the Alberta Shows Off Market on the Monday Night. The Tuesday Night Awards Gala that will feature the Rural Tourism Awards, the People's Choice Award, and the winner of the Entrepreneurship Challenge along with showcasing Alberta Talent. Both Highlighted events are great opportunities for you to network with fellow tourism industry representatives and operators.

More speakers. More ideas. More tourism.

Growing Rural Tourism 2017 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.

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See what's happening this year

"The Power Of Storytelling"

Terry O'Reilly

Radio Host, Director & Professional Speaker

This presentation includes:

How storytelling can add immediate value to your product/service. How to harvest stories from your company/organization and your customers. How storytelling can communicate intangible qualities like trust, confidence and security. How stories can launch new products and maintain mature brands. How storytelling creates intense customer loyalty. Why the best storytellers are the best listeners.

"Igniting Your Passion as an Entrepreneur"

Graham Sherman

Co-Owner, Tool Shed Brewing Company

A little bit about Graham:

Graham Sherman is a self-professed “high level geek” who has used his love of technology to help him master the craft of brewing artisan beer. Together with his partner, Graham launched the Tool Shed Brewery four years ago, and has never looked back. Speaking on what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, Graham’s passion comes through in every talk.

"How to Use Social Selling to Crush Your Sales Quota"

Shane Gibson

International Speaker, Author & Social Sales Expert

In this session Shane Gibson will share with you:

The Rules of Engagement in social media for sales professionals. How to define and hone in on your target “nano-markets” online. How your social graph impacts your ability to close deals and generate leads. How to maximize your LinkedIn profile so it attracts clients. Key social search and social media monitoring tools to find opportunities and gather business intelligence. And much much more...

"Road Map To Your Event: 8 Steps To Success"

Chris Schoengut

Vice President @ Trixstar

2 Part Session which includes:

Road Map To Your Event: 8 Steps To Success
Have you been tasked with creating an event for your community, but aren’t sure where to start? Trixstar will take you through 8 essential tips to create an event like the pros.

The 6 Pillars Of Event Marketing
Dive further into event marketing (1 of the above 8 steps) with some great relatable community-minded event examples like the Big Valley Jamboree, Canadian Badlands Passion Play & Veggfest.

"AIM High - Rise to the Occasion"

Chris Fields

Sr. Strategist @ 13 Ways, Inc. & Professional Speaker

In this session Chris Fields will share with you:

Five ways to leap the hurdles that stand in the way of exceptional spaces, places, and people.

"Alberta Community & Co-operative Association"

Seth Leon

Manager of Co-operative Services at ACCA

In this session Seth Leon will share with you:

Opportunity development coops and how you can grow tourism and business in your community by starting one.

"Motorcycle Ride to Reynolds – An Award Winning Partnership"

Cynthia Blackmore & Nicole Mueller

Reynolds-Alberta Museum

Events are one way to raise awareness and visitation, but they can be risky. So why did the Reynolds-Alberta Museum think they could be successful investing in a new event, in an already incredibly event-laden Alberta summer? Where was the opportunity, who would be the logical partner, where would the money come from, and would anybody come?

This is a case study about the successful introduction, and Social Media partnership marketing, of Motorcycle Ride to Reynolds.

"Facebook Content that Converts"

Ashley Meadahl

Founder and CEO of Premiere Event Management

Facebook is one of Social Media's most valuable Platforms to reach your target audience.

Ashley is going to share her Easy-To-Implement Steps into getting Facebook Content to Convert for your Business. You will learn:

  • How to determine your target audience
  • What to post on Facebook
  • What changes Facebook has made

"Maximizing Visitor Services Opportunities in your Community"

Robin Luini

Manager Visitor Services Destination Development and Services Branch Ministry Alberta Culture and Tourism

With rapid changes in technology and the changes in visitor expectations and behaviors, communities must examine how they engage with visitors to provide trip planning advice and services in order to maximize visitor spending. This session will provide strategies and tactics to evolve your visitor services towards a multi-channel approach, and how to measure the results and return on the investment of these services. Additionally, tangible examples will be provided of how industry operators and business owners can collaborate with visitor services providers to maximize their revenue.

"ATAA Information & Opportunities"

Steve Derpack

Executive Director
Arts Touring Alliance of Alberta

Steve will lead to a general understanding of what the ATAA can do for you, and how working with us can open doors and opportunities for community engagement, revenue generation, business creation, and strengthened networks in the provincial sector and beyond.

The membership base and organization that the ATAA works with comprises much of the arts community, agricultural societies, local business, and we exist to support the presenting arts service organization members that exist in each of the towns and cities throughout the province, rural and urban alike.

Steve will elaborate on how the ATAA mandate can assist with economic diversification, educational components, and building and strengthening your communities from both a revenue stream standpoint and as a support network for and with your business sector.

"Crossroads: How Cypress Hills embraced Mountain Biking"

Peter Swain

Director, South Region at Ministry of Environment and Parks

Crossroads: How Cypress Hills embraced Mountain Biking

In 2010, a group of volunteers wanted to host Cypress Hills' first triathlon, but they needed to use an illegal trail; they were worried that letting officials know about it would lead to its closure. They took a gamble based on a good relationship they had with staff, and won.

Mountain biking is now one of the largest visitor segments in Cypress; the MTB community is building new and better trails and the park is investing heavily into trail development. This is a story of how the public sector can engage and be engaged by its community and the great things that result.

Elkwater: Not Boring Anymore

What is a small town to do? Limited money for marketing or product development? Work with what you have! Elkwater used its free assets of snow and water and added a dose of shameless imitation – and turned a sleepy town into a bustling winter hot spot!

Birdwatching too boring for you? How about skateboarding? Rocket ships? Tumble rooms? Hear how Elkwater redefined its products to drive business, and gave other things away to save money and increase satisfaction.

Entrepreneurship Challenge

The 3rd Annual Entrepreneurship Challenge features a 1st place prize of $10,000, free conference registration for 2018, and $3,500 towards mentoring from an industry expert. In order to be eligible to win you must fill out the application form by clicking the link below. Rule and eligibility are also contained in the form below.

Please click here to download

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.

Please click here to download

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.


Applications are available here. All requests for funding support must be received by January 20, 2017. Funds will be paid on your behalf directly to the Camrose Regional Exhibition.


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.

Click the button to the right to sign up to receive occasional updates about Growing Rural Tourism and be notified about our latest updates on speakers, sponsors, offers, and parties (you will also need to confirm your email address before you are officially added to the list). You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in any message.


You can see a condensed verison of the program for the 2017 Growing Rural Tourism Conference below. Please click on the image to get a larger view:

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


There are a lot of great places to stay near the conference. Below you can see the 2017 Growing Rural Tourism Conference Hotel Block:

Best Western Plus Camrose

(780) 679-2379

$134 per night plus taxes
Rooms to be released January 19, 2017
Code – Growing Rural Tourism Delegate**

Canalta Hotel

(780) 672-7303

$123.49 per night plus taxes
Rooms to be released January 19, 2017
Code – Growing Rural Tourism Conference**

Ramada Hotel

(780) 672-5220

$139.99 per night plus taxes
Rooms to be released January 12, 2017
Code – Growing Rural Tourism Conference**

** 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 last year's conference.

Last year's conference was a huge success with the theme "Bank on It". We are extremely excited about this year's conference where we will "Ignite the Change".

10th Annual Awards Gala

The following awards will be given out on Tuesday February 14th during the 10th Annual Growing Rural Tourism Awards Gala:

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


You can download the application for the 2017 Rural Champion Award by clicking here. Please note that the application deadline is February 10th, 2017.