Discovery Wildlife Park was an impressive winner last week at the 16th annual Growing Rural Tourism Conference in Camrose.
The Innisfail zoo earned a third-place finish at the event’s Growing Rural Tourism Entrepreneurship Challenge, the second year it has been featured at the conference, which is hosted by the Camrose Regional Exhibition.
The challenge, which had 10 finalists this year, was created to help tourism operators develop new products and experiences and grow their businesses. Participants receive valuable feedback from industry experts to kick-start their projects.
The submission from Discovery Wildlife Park was its plan to create a 66-unit campground at the zoo, an idea designed to give guests the unique experience of the sights and sounds of the animals at night, while offering visitors a traditional wildlife experience during the day, including the park’s mandate of conservation and protection of habitats.
The zoo’s idea of a campground on nearly nine acres of land at the northeast corner of its 90-acre property was first made public last January when the town granted the owners development approval.
Co-owner Doug Bos, who was vacationing in Arizona last week, said he was pleased when he learned his zoo had won third place and the $4,000 that goes with it.
“We are excited to win it and it will help build our new campground. The timing was right for the spring so (we) can use the money for the project,” said Bos.
Alberta Culture and Tourism is a partner in the event and provides the total $20,000 prize money. With the $4,000 it won at the conference, the zoo can use it to develop its campground plan, as well as on marketing materials, research and training. Winners at the challenge also receive a year of mentoring from industry experts to help them make their project successful.
In the meantime, Bos said he hopes to begin developing his new campground this year.
”We will get started on the roads this spring,” said Bos, adding he also hopes to hook up electricity and construct washrooms at the site. “It is going to be unique compared to most other campgrounds, because you will be able to fish at the pond that we have there right now. And then during the day they will be able to go to the zoo just like a regular visitor, and we will have special activities during the evening they can take part in too.”
The first-place $10,000 winners at the challenge were Jeff and Juli Gillies, owners of Rancho Relaxo Resort/Taimi Soil Projects in Rocky Mountain House, while second place and $6,000 went to Wanda Bogdane of Canadian Rockies Mountain Bike Fest.
“It is going to be unique compared to most other campgrounds because you will be able to fish at the pond that we have there right now. And then during the day they will be able to go to the zoo just like a regular visitor.”