Quarterly News - October 2020

Welcome to the third issue of our Quarterly News.

The tourism industry has been one of the most impacted industries since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, impacting tour operators, airlines, hotels, restaurants, and many other tourism-related businesses.

As tourists and travel adjusts to evolving pandemic restrictions, we’re taking the time to discover, create and expand our local tourism experiences so that we’re ready for when travellers feel comfortable to explore again.

Our Big Backyard Campaign – we have so much to explore in our region!

We have so many incredible and often unexpected local attractions to experience in Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo; that’s why we’re encouraging our community to go out and explore all that our region has to offer.

Our Big Backyard Campaign launched a video capturing the endless beauty and adventure of our region. We’ve expanded the campaign with a nine-part video series showcasing specific seasonal attractions like the Birchwood Trails and our golf courses. From traveling north to the expansive Richardson Backcountry, camping at Six Lakes or exploring the sand dunes, our community has had a lot of fun exploring our backyard this summer. We can’t want to share our winter experiences with you!

Throughout the campaign we have been partnering with local businesses to promote where to find adventure and what stores offer the equipment to make the most of it – really encouraging our community to support local.

When is the last time you explored our big backyard?

Our Big Backyard

Curating experiences for residents and visitors


A great way to find and develop tourism operators for our region is to host Familiarization tours, aka “FAM tours”. The goals of a FAM tour are to inspire, develop, and support new and existing tourism operators and experiences in our region. The process of discovery to development, implementation and marketing can take anywhere from 1-3 years to get off the ground.


Earlier this year, we did a Yellowknife, Northwest Territories FAM tour to take in a variety of outdoor adventure, culinary, and Indigenous tourism experiences. Yellowknife is the premier destination in Canada for Aurora Borealis and is booked nearly two years in advance by tourists from all around the world! This FAM tour was an important step in educating and inspiring our region’s entrepreneurs, investors and community leaders to envision Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo as the next leader in this thriving industry! Since returning, local tourism operators are working on developing their own Aurora experiences for our region. We are excited to announce that Andrew Lake Lodge, working in partnership with McMurray Aviation, has started a Northern Lights viewing experience and has already received bookings this year.

traditional indigenous shelters at night in the winter


In August, we did another FAM tour in partnership with Travel Alberta, to our Northern Fishing & Hunting Lodges. The purpose of this tour was twofold as we were assessing the market readiness of existing operators while also encouraging future tourism entrepreneurs to develop their businesses. We visited four different lodges, each with significantly different landscapes and experiences. For information on Andrew Lake Lodge, Lloyd Lake Lodge, Gypsy Lake Lodge and Pearson Lake Lodge please email

two men in a fishing boat holding up 3 fish that they have caught

Connecting communities and economies

We are very proud of the Fort McMurray International Airport for becoming the first airport to achieve Global Health Accreditation in Western Canada. This accreditation along with the airport’s enhanced health and safety program demonstrates their unwavering commitment to protecting travelers and employees.

This summer, WBEDC proudly partnered with the Fort McMurray International Airport to welcome Flair Airlines to Fort McMurray with flights to Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria. We are committed to supporting these routes and are working with our tourism partners in these cities to promote air travel and tourism in our region.

Connecting directly to these major centres is foundational for getting our local businesses and start-ups linked to new markets. These new routes also open doors for the development and support of our local tourism experiences. As a community, it’s important to fly local with Flair Airlines to support our airport and keep these routes in our city for the long-term.

Book Now

Taking an economic development approach to Tourism

Launched by the Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce 35 years ago and transferred to Fort McMurray Tourism shortly after, Trade shows in our region will once again be part of our local Chamber. This change enables Tourism, now an integral part of Wood Buffalo Economic Development Corporation, to hyper focus on tourism development and growing our visitor economy by marketing Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo as a destination.

One priority focus area for Tourism is creating a robust Meetings, Conventions & Sport Tourism sales strategy that will help attract and amplify events in our region. Based on the events we hosted and bids we won in 2019, Fort McMurray jumped more than 50 spots on the 2020 Canada Sport Hosting Index; Fort McMurray is now 34th place overall and 5th in Alberta behind Edmonton, Red Deer, Banff, and Leduc.

We are working hard to showcase the incredible facilities and unexpected beauty of Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo.

aerial view of MacDonals Island Park in the summer

The best place to start something is here and now.

Whether you’re exploring a new tourism operation, expanding an existing business, or starting something completely new, Startup YMM - Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo’s small business incubator- is here to guide and support you.

Startup YMM help’s entrepreneurs navigate through each stage of their venture by providing educational programs, building community, and creating spaces where entrepreneurs can work on their ideas and be inspired by each other.

Startup YMM opened its doors virtually this summer - offering virtual memberships and online programming and events. Sign up now as virtual memberships are FREE until December 31, 2020!

Startup YMM will be opening its physical location downtown on Franklin Avenue and Marshall Street once construction is complete by the end of 2020. While following health guidelines, Startup YMM will offer drop-in co-working space, a technology makers space as well as workshops and seminars for potential and existing entrepreneurs.

Learn more about Startup YMM, upcoming events and the many benefits of becoming a member.

Three people sitting at a table talking in a startup space

We look forward to sharing more of the work we’ve done this year and our next year’s priorities at Momentum 2020, a live broadcast on December 9, 2020.

Please make sure to register!


Kevin Weidlich, CEO Wood Buffalo Economic Development

Impacts on our region

As countries continue to re-open the economy, global oil demand is higher than it was back in April. Oil prices continue to stabilize around the $40 mark and some of the shut-in production is back online. The number of air travel passengers inbound and outbound from our region has reached the lowest in over a decade. The following captures our progress during Stage 2 of Alberta’s relaunch.


Source: as of September 29, 2020


OIL PRICES: Western Canadian Select Crude

Source: as of September 24, 2020


Fort McMurray International Airport (January 2008 - August 2020)

Source: as of September 30, 2020


INDUSTRY CORNER: Canadian oil and gas has a significant role to play in post COVID-19 economic recovery

Canada’s natural resource sector can play a critical role in ensuring a competitive, prosperous economy while accelerating innovation and environmental competitiveness. Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo, the heart of the oil sands, is front and center of this opportunity.

Three out of four Canadians believe that recovery from COVID-19 should support Canada’s natural resource industries while still protecting the environment– Ipsos survey.

Did you know? Canada’s oil and gas sector is the largest investor in clean energy and environmental protection in the country. You can see examples of this environmental innovation across our region.

Experience one example when visiting Syncrude’s Bison Viewpoint.

In 1993, in partnership with Fort McKay, a herd of 30 wood bison was settled onto over 4,000 hectares of reclaimed land. Today, the herd has grown to 300.

Oil machinery in the winter at dusk