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Cochrane Tourism releases new plans for 2024 to 2027.

The new Executive Director of the Cochrane and Area Tourism Association, Callandra Caulfield, outlined the organization’s new direction at a Town of Cochrane council meeting Tuesday night, as the outgoing ED said goodbye.
Riders enjoy the view at Saddle Peak Trail Rides

The new Executive Director of the Cochrane and Area Tourism Association, Callandra Caufield, outlined the organization’s new direction at a Town of Cochrane council meeting Tuesday night, as the outgoing ED said goodbye.

It was Jo-Anne Oucharek’s last appearance as director, as she has now stepped down from the post she held for six-and-a-half years. She took a good-natured jab from Mayor Jeff Genung (after he thanked her for her hard work), as he told her she was not doing a very good job of retiring.

As Caufield takes over the reins, the 2024-2027 Strategic Plan is now the guiding document for the organization. The Plan is available for viewing on the Town of Cochrane website.

A Travel Alberta report suggests potential tourism spending in Cochrane and surrounding area between 2022 and 2035 will be $147 million annually.

According to a Cochrane Tourism Association analysis released in 2023, what’s known as the ‘visitor economy’ contributes $67.5 M to the overall economy in Cochrane and area every year.

Oucharek pointed out that just from a financial standpoint, tourism spending in Cochrane is paying dividends, as the investment from the Town was $100,000 to produce that $67.5M.

“That’s a great return on investment,” she said.

Tourism Cochrane is funded in a tiered approach, which includes the Town of Cochrane, some provincial funding, and something called the Destination Marketing Fund. The DMF is provided by a volunteer levy charge on rooms at select Cochrane Hotels.

In November 2023, Folkore Research were contracted by Cochrane Tourism to provide a brief economic impact assessment for the visitor economy. After an extensive literature review and analysis, the following data was developed, with the caveat that these numbers are estimates only.

Visitor Economy research results

The average direct spend per night is $16,804.64 on accommodation, leading to an annual figure of $6,133,691.61 spent at hotels in Cochrane every year.

In 2023, Kananaskis Country saw over 5.6 million visitors, following a rise during COVID that seems to have remained steady at the new higher level. The high visitor count is attributed to Calgary and area residents enjoying the outdoors – an activity that aligns with one of the key tourism interests of Albertans according to Travel Alberta. Allowing for just 2% of those visitors stopping in Cochrane, that translates into 112,000 estimated visitors per year.

2024-2027 Strategic Plan

Caufield outlined the broad strokes of the new plan. The three guiding principles are: respect our sense of place and identity as the stewards of community, culture, economy, and environment; take a collaborative approach by inviting, engaging, and nurturing intentional relationships as part of an interconnected network of community stakeholders; and commit to encouraging tourism that provides an exceptional experience for visitors while preserving our small-town feel and offering a positive impact for all.

Working with provincial, federal and international agencies, she described tourism in Cochrane as being in an emergent state.

“We’re at a bit of a precipice right now. We have a really exciting opportunity to grow tourism in a way that’s designed to take care of our community, Caufield said.

When Coun. Alex Reid asked what was meant by Cochrane having a “unique” character, Oucharek responded it was all about a feeling, as identified in a survey in 2017. The survey asked residents and visitors what it is about Cochrane they loved.

Oucharek said, “The first thing they would say is, ‘I don’t know . . . it’s just this feeling.’”

“It’s real – whether you live here, visit here, whether you’ve been here for 40 years or two months,” Oucharek said.

Howard May

About the Author: Howard May

Howard was a journalist with the Calgary Herald and with the Abbotsford Times in BC, where he won a BC/Yukon Community Newspaper Association award for best outdoor writing.
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