Travel and Leisure, a publication owned by Time Inc., has named Edmonton as one of the 50 best places to travel to in 2018.
Toronto is the only other Canadian city to make the list.
Calgary, Vancouver and Montreal were not included.
It’s an odd list — some locations that made it are specific attractions like Iguazú Falls on the border of Argentina and Brazil. Others are entire countries, like Ireland.
As to why Edmonton made the list, contributor / freelancer Kathryn O’Shea-Evans writes that “food and museum news is casting a spotlight on Alberta’s capital city.”
She says a chef named Scott Downey has returned to the city to open a restaurant named the Butternut Tree, located at 9707 110th Street. But O’Shea-Evans adds that she’s waiting to make her reservations when the new Royal Alberta Museum opens it doors in early 2018, since the museum is another reason to visit the city.
Finally, she encourages people to stay at the downtown Crash Hotel in order to “experience Edmonton’s indie side.”
It’s not clear how O’Shea-Evans can recommend the restaurant and museum if she hasn’t yet visited them. But despite that, Edmonton tourism officials are thrilled to make the list.
Last month Edmonton made the World’s Best Cities 2018 list. And in 2015 the city made National Geographic’s Best Summer Trips list.
‘Really excited’ about accolades
“We’re really excited about those accolades,” said Renée Williams, director of communications and distribution with Edmonton Tourism.
It appears the marketing team for that office can play a significant role in Edmonton making these lists.
“We put in some really concerted efforts,” Williams said. “We’ve got a travel media team who works diligently to pitch Edmonton stories, unique Edmonton ideas, authentic experiences to international travel writers, contributors and editors of these same publications.”
In some cases that includes bringing in the writers for free stays and tours.
“Sometimes as quick as a one day turnaround, sometimes they’ll be here as long as five days,” said Williams. “We just try to showcase as much of the city as we can.”
Williams admitted the lobbying efforts are crucial, especially when it came to the Travel and Leisure publication. It’s no fluke that Edmonton made the list.
“Without having worked with the folks that contributed to this piece, we wouldn’t be on this list,” she said. “That’s what we’ve set out to do with travel media, to drive demand for our destination in other markets.
Efforts ‘targeted’ and ‘strategic’
“These efforts are targeted, they’re strategic,” she added. “I think this is Edmonton’s time to shine and we’ve definitely sold that with Travel and Leisure.”
It’s not all about a clever marketing campaign, though. Williams said travellers and the publications that cater to them are looking for something different.
“People are looking for hidden gems, off the beaten path destinations,” she said. “We’re hearing that all the time from international tour operators, we’re hearing it from travel writers, and Edmonton is that city.
“Authentic, original, unique experiences that you can find, and maybe because it’s not been front and centre in some of these publications, people are starting to look for ‘Where are those other cities that have great offerings and amazing experiences?’ And that’s what’s kind of putting us in that sight line for a lot of these publications.”
Another bonus is that the travel writer’s trips don’t cost the city any money because industry picks up the tab.
“The support that we get for any of these media programs is all led by industry,” said Williams. “So hotels, attractions, ground operators like River Valley Adventure Tour who runs the Segways, we work with those partners to bring these visits in.”
The only question that remains is: How does one get a job as one of these travel writers?