Evan is an Account Manager at Vovia. He originally joined Vovia as an intern while studying at University and liked us so much that he came back for more. He is an avid Hockey and Golf player who also has a passion for playing and collecting guitars.

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Vovia Client Feature: Get to Know Tourism Calgary

We are lucky enough to have long-term relationships with many of our clients based on trust, collaboration, and performance. One of these ongoing relationships is with Tourism Calgary. Over the past two years, we have had the pleasure of supporting Tourism Calgary’s business and their destination partners, helping to showcase all the amazing activities, attractions, events, and people that we have right here in Calgary. The partnership between our two organizations continues to be a valued and collaborative one, no matter what market factors we have had to collectively face over the time we’ve been working together.

While almost no industry was left unscathed by the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a particularly difficult year for those in the tourism industry. Throughout the past year, Tourism Calgary has had to adapt to a constantly changing environment while exploring new and innovative ways to showcase our beautiful city. In a time where social distancing, mask-wearing, vaccination discussions, and consistently changing public health measures are the norm, Tourism Calgary has somehow found numerous ways to continue to connect with their audience and provide value to their partners and stakeholders. Needless to say, we’ve had to look at things from a whole new perspective as a team.

We recently caught up with Mark Friesen, the Marketing Manager at Tourism Calgary. In this post, he will help us explore life in the tourism industry during a global pandemic, the relationship between Tourism Calgary and Vovia, and much more.

Evan: The COVID-19 Pandemic has obviously had a significant impact on the tourism industry. What have been some of the biggest challenges, and more importantly, what are some positives that you can pull from the last year and everything that Tourism Calgary has been through during the pandemic?

Mark: As an organization, the biggest challenge in my mind has been how to do more with less. There arguably has never been a greater need to support our tourism partners, whether it be hotels, restaurants, attractions, or retailers, but we are operating with reduced budgets, reduced resources, and limited markets to actively target. According to a survey we administered at the end of 2020, half of our partners think they can last a year under the same conditions and a quarter said that they could only last another six months, so the gravity of the situation for our industry is immense.

Personally, as a marketer, the start/stop nature of the pandemic has been the most challenging aspect. It has been a rollercoaster of a year and unlike anything I have ever experienced before in destination marketing.

There have been so many positive internal processes formed at Tourism Calgary during the pandemic. We have seen team members taking on new responsibilities and crushing it, cross-department task forces producing incredible results, and new forms of communication enabling a more efficient workday. Some of our best ideas as an organization have been born out of the pressure of the pandemic, a prime example being the Curling Bubble that was organized by our Sports & Major Events team with Curling Canada. An event of that scope, and the resulting broadcast audience of 23 million people, just would not have been possible in normal times. 

Evan: What are your goals for Tourism Calgary now that we are (hopefully) nearing the light at the end of the tunnel in this pandemic?

Mark: Throughout the pandemic, Tourism Calgary has been following a stakeholder-endorsed phased strategy to support the industry’s recovery and rebuild from COVID-19. During this time, our marketing has been organized around five objectives, but now that we are entering into what is hopefully the later stages of the pandemic, we have focused in on three:

  1. Generate demand for partners
  2. Build trust to safely explore Calgary
  3. Create alignment with partners

All of our marketing tactics need to ladder up to one or more of these three objectives.

Evan: Anything new and exciting on the horizon for Tourism Calgary in the coming months?

Mark: We are just wrapping up a few months of really high-impact executions including the aforementioned Curling Bubble, a new mid-winter round-up of events called Chinook Blast, and the premiere of a cinematic fly-fishing film with country superstar, and local Calgarian, Paul Brandt.

In my world of paid marketing, I am very excited about the launch of our newly formatted co-operative marketing program for partners. The ‘Things to Do’ campaign, as it’s been called for 10+ years, was paused during the pandemic, but it is back with a new structure that is tailor made to help partners kick-start their recovery efforts this summer. It should be a program that really achieves our objectives of generating demand for partners, as well as creating partner alignment. Vovia is playing an essential role in this work and their strategic thinking and expertise is a huge asset to the program.

Evan: How would you describe the relationship between Tourism Calgary and Vovia?

Mark: Tourism Calgary and Vovia have a very team-first approach. In our meetings and communications, we approach issues/opportunities as a collective, as opposed to a very strict client/agency relationship. We all want the same things and work hard to achieve them, without taking ourselves too seriously. It is a light-hearted, fun, and strategic relationship that has yielded fantastic results for Calgary’s tourism industry.

Evan: If you had to describe Vovia in just one word, what would it be?

Mark: Supportive.

It goes without saying that our collective team has had to think outside the box this past year, but many fantastic learnings and opportunities have come about in the process. We are excited to see what the coming year brings for tourism in Calgary, and for our partnership as a whole as we begin the transition back towards a more normal life. If you’re interested in keeping up with all of the latest events, activities, and attractions in and around Calgary, be sure to check out Tourism Calgary at their website here, or at their social media below.

Twitter: @TourismCalgary

Instagram: @TourismCalgary

Facebook: @TourismCalgary