Cochrane has enormous strengths as a community, many of which are factors for the tremendous growth the community has seen over the past decade.
Despite being a community that is reaching toward 30,000 citizens, the small town western roots remain evident. Based near the foothills and in the river valley of the Bow River, Cochrane is picturesque and offers much for those who love the outdoors without having to venture too far from the city.
While that has translated into growth in population and amenities – Cochrane has more than 600 storefront businesses in its repertoire of more than 1,200 business licences – the town has not done quite as well on the tourism side of the coin.
It’s a fact the Cochrane Tourism Association is hoping to change as it kicks off a new direction in marketing that will hopefully tap into the vast tourism money out there that could benefit our business community.
In 2015, tourism spending in Canmore and Banff was nothing short of astronomical. Shared with Jasper, tourists spent more than $1.5 billion in the mountain towns. For Canmore, that translated into nearly $1 million a day.
That is some serious money that Cochrane would love a bigger piece of.
The question is how do we attract more people travelling between the city and the mountains to stop in Cochrane? Or, better yet, how do we get them to stay in town?
As a tourist destination, Cochrane has some selling points when compared to Canmore or Banff. The first is price point. Staying here is cheaper with a variety of accommodation options from hotels, to camping to airbnbs. Cochrane is also closer to the airport and provides direct routes to many provincial attractions via highways 1A and 22 and the TransCanada.
Add in some amazing historical sites, unique boutiques in the Historic Downtown, all the amenities one needs and arguably the best ice cream in Alberta, it is a wonder we don’t have a more thriving tourist economy.
The tourism association’s push toward better marketing and coordination with community businesses for advertising will help get the word out about what Cochrane has to offer, but it is just the start.
We must push for the regional transit system to prioritize Cochrane as both a stopping point and more importantly a pick up point on the way too the mountains. This means multiple and convenient trip times, partnerships with local hotels and an affordable price point.
Cochrane would make an excellent tourist hub for those travelling around the western part of the province but we need to ensure access is both easy and cost effective.
Tourism is big business in Alberta and Cochrane has the character, charm and offerings to earn a bigger piece of the pie.