While in the process of establishing a new National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA), Parks Canada and NMCA staff wanted to explore the opportunity surrounding the creation of a new roster of visitor experiences designed to get Canadians to stop and spend time exploring. Undertaking a Visitor Experience Strategy for the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area (LSNMCA) represented an opportunity to shape the tourism direction of both the newly created Parks Canada site, but also to develop core experiences that would contribute to the tourism direction of the communities along the shore of Lake Superior.
The Parks Canada Visitor Experience Strategy process undertaken by the BC Hughes development team is an in-depth nine step process deigned to ensure National Parks, National Historic Sites, and National Marine Conservation Areas connect with Canadians, while maintaining their natural, cultural and historical integrity.
Creating experiences for a water-based National Park meant the inclusion of local tourism stakeholders was paramount in the process of designing experiences, as land-based supporting operators would often be partners in the development and delivery of experiences.
Upon establishing the goals of the Visitor Experience Strategy, the project involved an inventory of existing area tourism assets, site visits to assess the tourism market readiness of local assets, and multi-staged workshops with Parks Canada and NMCA staff as well as key area tourism and economic development representatives.
The project included the development of an Essence of Place for the LSNMCA, a document that articulates the site’s unique experiential qualities, and sets the foundation or the context under which the site’s target markets will be determined and visitor experiences will be developed.
The resulting Visitor Experience Strategy recommended 19 tourism experiences, infrastructure and tourism product development activities for the region. The recommendations will be used as an investment and development tool by the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area as well as tourism representatives from surrounding communities.