Cranbrook Tourism: A Bold and Inclusive Master Plan

Since the Canadian Pacific Railway established its line through Cranbrook over a century ago, the community has become the major centre for the East Kootenays, and it now boasts a dynamic tourism sector as well. A new Tourism Master Plan will enable the community to realize the full potential of tourism and guide a sustainable economic future for both residents and visitors.

“Cranbrook has so much, from our colorful history and culture, world-class outdoor recreation, diverse event facilities and a blossoming downtown scene,” says Darren Brewer, Cranbrook’s Economic Development Officer. “Yet until the creation of the new Tourism Master Plan, the potential economic benefits of tourism were never truly assessed or realized.”   

Development of the plan is a partnership between Cranbrook Tourism, the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce, and the Ktunaxa Nation Council, which stewards its more than 27,000 square miles of traditional lands in BC and Alberta. “The idea was to create a shared vision for the future that aligns with the goals of these groups and supports them moving forward,” says Kristy Kajn-Smith, Executive Director of Cranbrook Tourism.

The Economic Trust of Southern Interior (ETSI-BC) supported the plan with a $ 50,000 grant – the maximum amount the Trust provides to a project – through its Building Economic Capacity funding stream. Additional funding was received from Columbia Basin Trust, the Regional District East Kootenay, and the City of Cranbrook.

A Bold Vision Informed by Research and Engagement

The project to develop the tourism plan, which Brewer says provides “a bold and inclusive vision for our city,” began with extensive research to better understand the tourism-related needs of residents, visitors and tourism stakeholders. Information gained through 10 workshops and 500 visitor and resident surveys looked at visitor spending, job creation, revenue generation and tourism’s multiplier effect on other sectors of the economy.

By visiting the City’s data portal, stakeholders and community members are able to access valuable insights and metrics that track the progress and impact of the plan. “The findings provide a crucial baseline for future policy setting and initiatives by tourism stakeholders and other industries,” says Brewer.

As the Tourism Master Plan rolls out over the next few years, Cranbrook will look and feel different.

Culture a Key Focus

The city plans to develop new tourism infrastructure including land development, entertainment venues and cultural attractions. The plan supports reducing the environmental impact of tourism, and at the same time, enhances the digital tourism experience using innovative technologies such as augmented reality, mobile apps, and interactive displays.

A major recommendation is the Ktunaxa Cultural Initiative, aimed at creating a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Ktunaxa culture. The plan outlines investment in green spaces and urban areas that promote cultural experiences and meaningful interactions between locals and tourists.

Linking Tourism and Active Transportation Plans

Another key recommendation is the redevelopment of the History Center Grounds to include a Welcome Centre as a beachhead for tourists entering downtown Cranbrook. The Tourism Master Plan aligns with the work the city completed on its Downtown Revitalization Plan and will provide valuable input into future planning exercises like the Active Transportation plan currently underway.

Enhanced visitor signage will be located at city entry points and a better-connected network of trails will improve the city’s hiking and biking options. The plan also recommends strategic investment in facilities, parks and venues to transform the city’s downtown into an arts and culture hub.

Inclusive Tourism Opportunities and Economic Benefits

“Cranbrook is one of the best kept secrets in the Kootenays,” says Brewer. “The Tourism Master Plan provides the roadmap to development, meaningful First Nation Representation, and overarching inclusivity. Where else can a six-year-old, an 80-year-old and person with a disability enjoy the same tourism assets?”

Laurel Douglas, CEO for ETSI-BC, says “This project doesn’t just help grow the community’s employment and economic benefits, it also promotes conservation and education, and shows how key stakeholders can work collaboratively to take Cranbrook into the future.”

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