Cars driving on Highway 3, with mountains in the background.

The new Sustainable Journeys from Prairies to Pacific Corridor brings existing development strategies and the tourism offerings of Highway 3 to the forefront as communities between Hope, BC and Lethbridge, Alberta come together to activate big ideas and big investment in destination development.



For those who have experienced it, Highway 3 is a less-travelled and spectacular scenic alternative to the TransCanada Highway. Now, the route is ready to bring together existing strategies to find investment for even more attractors. Also known as the Crowsnest Highway, Highway 3 takes visitors on a journey through cities, resort towns, small rural communities, remote areas and unparalleled scenery in Alberta and British Columbia, and back again. Along the way, guests can stop to experience Indigenous culture, get a taste of agritourism, adventure in the outdoors, tour National and Provincial parks, learn about western culture and heritage, and as likely as not see breath-catching wildlife.

Since 2018, Destination BC and other partners have been implementing the Highway 3 Destination Development Strategy with a vision to make Highway 3 BC’s best-known, best-loved west-east driving corridor. Similarly, Travel Alberta and partners have been implementing the Southern Rockies Tourism Development Zone (TDZ) destination development strategy since 2022 in support of community growth aspirations along Highway 3 and an ambitious provincial goal to double tourism revenues in the province between 2022 and 2035. Common to both was that their individual planning efforts stopped at the BC-Alberta border even though some visitors cross over and travel both destinations in the same trip.

Also common to both, and essential to putting the plans into action, is the desire to generate significant investment opportunities to support the growth of tourism.


Sustainable Journeys Corridor

SJ Map



Which brings us to 2023, when Highway 3 was selected to be the core of the new Sustainable Journeys from Prairies to Pacific Corridor, one of three pilot projects for Destination Canada’s Tourism Corridor Strategy. This created an opportunity to bring the work of planning partners together and prepare for investment in significant tourism experiences.

The Tourism Corridor Strategy was initiated in June 2023 as a transformative effort aimed at building a strong and lasting travel industry by developing interlinked destinations across the country. With a focus on a regenerative approach to tourism, the program aims to blend culture, heritage, and natural environments across diverse Canadian landscapes. In this case, it aims to blend the BC-Alberta border into one compelling journey.

According to Gracen Chungath of Destination Canada, “Proactively targeting guests with aligned values, aligning products with Canada's brand, and cultivating a pipeline of innovative experiences can enhance global appeal, while helping spread visitors across different places and times of the year.”  For this corridor, it’s all about identifying, investing in and developing new, impactful experiences that inspire travellers to explore more places along Highway 3 in all four seasons.

A family of four hikes on a snowy path with mountains in the background.
Hiking at Frank Slide in the Crownest Pass in Alberta.

Sustainable Journeys from Prairies to Pacific

As one of the first three pilots chosen under this strategy, the Sustainable Journeys from Prairies to Pacific Corridor emerged for its compelling set of communities that showcased their potential to be innovative and reimagine their future through tourism. These communities already host an abundance of natural landscapes, historical sites, diverse cultural heritage, and tourism activities, giving regional destination development the ability to create balanced growth and more meaningful experiences for guests.

“Developing a corridor tourism strategy is more complex than community or regional destination development,” says Greg Klassen of Skift Advisory (formerly Twenty31 Consulting Inc.). “In some cases, the entire corridor journey is the draw and not necessarily the destinations or experiences along the corridor. Other corridors that serve as a strong example for the Highway 3 corridor include the Great Ocean Road in Australia, the Oregon Coast in the United States, and the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland. Each of these corridors are built around the drive as the experience and not always the destinations along that drive.

“With a corridor strategy, the objective is to highlight the corridor through its critical mass of geographic, cultural, and other assets and experiences to both attract prospective visitors to the corridor and importantly, keep them on the corridor because there is so much more to see and experience just around the corner. Aligning the corridor along a common theme is an important element of the strategy.” 

Three people sit by a campfire in the evening, with an RV in the background.
Camping in St. Eugene RV Park in B.C.

The process to develop the strategy included reaching out to a broad range of rights holders and stakeholders including key tourism partners, local and regional DMOs, municipal, elected officials, provincial, and national government representatives, Indigenous nations and communities, economic development bodies, funding agencies, advocacy and community groups, developers, and local and regional tourism operators.

 An important step was to engage economic development officers to understand the investment climate. A framework of investments with big potential impact was created, ensuring alignment with existing destination development work. The project has also identified the need to provide resources to help economic development officers, communities and entrepreneurs with understanding the full potential of tourism and the prospect of tourism investment. In the current investment climate, communities need to be prepared with a business-friendly climate and shovel-ready projects for future investment.

A couple sits at a table in the foreground tasting wine, while they look at a sunset over a mountain range and a vineyard.
Wine tasting at the Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery in Creston, B.C.

As a result of participation in the Tourism Corridor Strategy Program, the regions along the entire highway from Hope, BC to Lethbridge, Alberta now have a road map for development and investment in tourism. It identifies initiatives to support new economic opportunities, attract high-value guests, and draw investment to enhance the corridor’s strengths; through these ongoing efforts, locals and guests will be connected to the Sustainable Journeys from Prairies to Pacific Corridor, in turn generating prosperity and wellbeing for the regions that call it home.

“Momentum has grown, collaboration has increased, and the corridor is getting noticed for the great potential it presents for sustainable rural tourism development,” says Emilie Cayer-Huard of Destination BC. “The Destination Canada Tourism Corridor Strategy program provides a unique opportunity to think about this corridor in its entirety, across provincial borders, and with a specific focus on economic development opportunities and investment readiness. We are all hard at work to make this corridor even more compelling to visitors but also to residents and investors.”

A person smiling, petting a horse in a ranch with mountains in the background.
Thanksgiving Ranch in the Crowsnest Pass in Alberta.

Building on Existing Experiences

The Sustainable Journeys from Prairies to Pacific strategy identifies investment and destination development opportunities that could be draws for the region as a whole. In this way, efforts can serve to emphasize the already-existing assets that seem to be waiting at every step of the way. 

Indigenous-owned tourism experiences live throughout the corridor and are destinations in their own right. These include Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Centre and St. Eugene Golf Resort and Casino, both of which are viewed as examples of how tourism-done-right can provide socio-cultural and economic prosperity for Indigenous Peoples. Head Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site near Fort Macleod, Alberta is another example of a tourism experience that is an important cultural and economic force of Indigenous people.

Several communities along the corridor—including Fernie, Kimberley, Rossland and Osoyoos—are designated Resort Municipalities and serve as significant travel motivators for visitors. Also, other communities that historically relied on agriculture or resource-extracting industries are starting to embrace tourism by including it in their planning, such as Lethbridge, Cranbrook, and Crowsnest Pass.

“The South Canadian Rockies Tourism Association (SCRTA) is very excited to participate in this project,” says Mel Zoller, General Manager of Glamping Resorts Ltd. and Board Chair of the SCRTA which is the DMO of the Crowsnest Pass-Pincher Creek-Castle region. “To us, offering sustainable journeys throughout the region means promoting responsible exploration of our communities and natural areas using Highway 3 as the main route of travel.”

The SCRTA represents a region that offers four seasons of experiences: visitors can ski and snowboard, experience world-class fly fishing, tour galleries, museums, and historical sites, and tee off at some of the country’s most scenic golf courses.

Two people cross-country ski on a snowy trail with trees covered in snow behind them.
Cross-country skiing in Castlegar, B.C.

“These experiences are all tied together by Highway 3, creating the compelling corridor that has enticed visitors for generations,” explains Zoller. “Within 30 minutes of the highway in any direction, visitors have access to UNESCO World Heritage Sites, hundreds of kilometres of hiking and biking trails, and a view into the living history of the West with agricultural and ranch operations throughout the region. Visitors can respectfully immerse themselves in what makes this region exceptional while being treated to traditional small town charm and hospitality and exciting food and beverage options including a number of craft breweries and small distilleries.”

The case of the SCRTA demonstrates the potential of the corridor, but without a development pipeline of major attractors, Highway 3 may not receive the full benefits of tourism it has the potential to achieve. While the corridor already features significant attractions and draws for visitors, implementing strategic enhancements and additional experiences that align with the corridor's core values will improve the visitor experience and contribute to the year-round economic prosperity of the communities.


Connecting Efforts through Collaboration

Sustainable Journeys from Prairies to Pacific is the result of collaboration from a grassroots level. Partners include Destination Canada, Travel Alberta, Destination BC, and tourism consultancy firm Skift Advisory. Other partners that have been engaged in the planning efforts include tourism businesses, destination management organizations (DMOs), local chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, and organizations representing regions and communities within the corridor.

“We are very excited about the opportunity to foster and grow relationships with other DMOs, municipalities, and communities to support sustainable tourism across southern Alberta and into BC,” says Mel Zoller. “By reaching across the table and working together, we really feel that we can shine a spotlight on our region and our neighbours as a world-class destination and corridor while staying true to our roots and values.”


Erin Crane, CEO of Tourism Lethbridge, speaks during a  corridor workshop in Pincher Creek, Alberta.
Erin Crane, CEO of Tourism Lethbridge, speaks during a  corridor workshop in Pincher Creek, Alberta. 

This inter-provincial corridor is designed to support the existing geographic growth strategies of both Travel Alberta and Destination BC.

Travel Alberta is redefining the province's tourism landscape with its innovative Tourism Development Zone (TDZ) Reports. By transitioning from six broad regions to thirteen targeted zones, Travel Alberta aims to more accurately reflect the rich diversity of experiences each area offers. This strategic approach focuses on collaborative development, personalized support through dedicated Destination Managers, and a deep understanding of each region’s unique characteristics. TDZs are key in driving balanced tourism growth, ensuring Alberta's competitive edge in the global travel market.

According to Yvonne Chau of Travel Alberta, “Travel Alberta’s TDZ project and Destination Canada’s Tourism Corridor Strategy Program complement each other seamlessly. The first phase of the TDZ project has set the foundation for destination development and management within the Southern Rockies. In parallel, the DC project focuses on investment attraction and asset enhancement, which builds upon the TDZ project's early work.”

This significant collaboration ensures that the region benefits from both a strong foundation and targeted efforts, creating a comprehensive approach to tourism development.

The same can be said for Destination BC, whose Invest in Iconics Strategy and Highway 3 Corridor Destination Development strategy have made tremendous progress.

Destination BC’s Invest in Iconics Strategy sets out to differentiate BC on the world stage. With this strategy, Destination BC is looking to transform the way British Columbia is seen through the eyes of travellers around the world. Together with the support of Indigenous Tourism BC, the tourism industry, and communities throughout the province, they are branding, marketing, and supporting the development of globally compelling routes and places that span the entire province of British Columbia.

The Tourism Corridor Strategy is an opportunity to further support the implementation of the Highway 3 Destination Development Strategy, namely by stimulating investment opportunities, as well as integrating with Travel Alberta and communities along the Alberta portion of the corridor. Conversely, it does not include a branding or marketing component, allowing it to work side-by-side with the Iconics work of Destination BC.

This project will leverage the already existing Destination Development strategies in BC and Alberta and focus on the investment attraction to have these strategies come to fruition. Throughout this project, collaboration across provincial borders is at the forefront, allowing for synergies and scale that the individual provinces cannot advance on their own.


Spreading the Benefits of Tourism

The benefits of tourism are already evident to communities who have a thriving base in the industry. For other communities, the transition to tourism is providing new economic opportunities.

Fernie is one such community. “As a small yet mighty mountain tourism and resort community in the Rockies, Fernie is excited to be a part of this corridor strategy,” says Jikke Stegeman-Gyorki, Executive Officer of Tourism Fernie. “As resource industries decrease, and as a rural tourism community that can grow sustainably, there is much opportunity to grow tourism with support in developing tourism infrastructure and connectivity. We need support to manage people on the land base, with the many front and backcountry experiences in the region.”

Lethbridge is another example. Having strong roots in agriculture with growing conditions that allow for over 65 specialty crops, it’s a natural fit to match that strength with other food and wine experiences in the corridor.

“Tourism also can play an important role in strengthening the agriculture sector and this corridor project is a catalyst for tourism becoming a greater part of our economy,” says Erin Crane, CEO of Tourism Lethbridge. 

The organization won the 2023 Culinary Tourism Experience Award for their efforts to lead the tourism industry in creating engaging, exciting and locally sourced agritourism experiences for the rest of Canada to fill their plate with. “We see the corridor project as a way to partner across Alberta and BC to generate greater visibility for all food and drink related businesses and locations. We also have an opportunity to share Lethbridge with the rest of the world and showcase not only the great agri-food tourism story in our region but also our way of life.”

Two people sit on a bench surrounded by plants, with a railway bridge in the background.
The Helen Schuler Nature Centre in Lethbridge, Alberta.

For Cranbrook, a key hub on the Crowsnest Highway makes tourism impossible to ignore. According to the City of Cranbrook’s Economic Development Officer, Darren Brewer, “Cranbrook is in its infancy compared to our regional tourism partners—Fernie, Kimberley and Columbia Valley—and our plan looks at who we can integrate into what is already a world class tourism offering. This includes supporting Ktunaxa cultural initiatives, investing in arrival and gateways as well as interpretive signage and wayfinding, securing new iconic attractions, and investing in our downtown as a catalyst for growth.”

Kristy Jahn-Smith, Executive Director of Cranbrook Tourism, also believes tourism has the potential to shape the city’s future. “This may be an opportunity to launch us from being just a ‘service centre’ to more of an ‘experience centre’. The Ktunaxa Nation is already on a path with this with St. Eugene Resort Hotel and the Ktunaxa Interpretive Centre... we are also well positioned for development of heritage experiences in general with the trifecta of St. Eugene, Fort Steele and the Cranbrook History Centre, representing Indigenous history, to the gold rush, to the railway… our Tourism Master Plan does speak to the proposed future development of the Cranbrook History Centre to develop it into the iconic Highway 3 experience it has the potential to be. Investment is imperative to this.”

“Investment is imperative.” – Kristy Jahn-Smith, Executive Director of Cranbrook Tourism

Now that the Sustainable Journeys from Prairies to Pacific Corridor is underway, Darren Brewer is ready to make the city’s tourism plans a reality. “Diversifying our economy to maximize the impact of tourism makes a lot of sense. We started this journey a little over five years ago when we established a tourism DMO and started to collect the Municipal and Regional District Tax. This allowed us to seek and gain the communities’ support and social license to develop, which brings us to where we are today, the very exciting stage of implementing the recommendations.” Having an investment pipeline in place helps make this work possible.


Distributing Benefits Across Communities

The Sustainable Journeys from Prairies to Pacific Corridor, empowered by Destination Canada's Tourism Corridor Strategy Program, is already enriching Canadian tourism and culture. This initiative is set to significantly amplify the appeal and visibility of Highway 3, transforming it from a scenic route into a can’t-miss experience full with cultural immersion and options for sustainable tourism. The plan’s implementation will reshape the economic landscape, distributing benefits across communities and enhancing the visitor experience.

Embracing the natural beauty, diverse cultures, and historic storytelling that is waking up between Hope, BC and Lethbridge, Alberta, the project's impact extends beyond travel; with a robust roadmap and investment plan in place, it fosters enduring economic, social, and environmental sustainability. Groundwork is being laid for investment attraction at a scale that can bring Highway 3 to international attention.

“We offer the path less travelled,” says Darren Brewer, “the winding road through the Canadian Rockies to either the coast or prairies. The Highway 3 corridor will allow Cranbrook—and our region—to compete. It’s a game changer.”

An aerial photo shows two people biking down a road in the woods in the foothills of a mountain range.
Biking in Cranbrook, B.C.



More about Current Destination Development Strategies

To learn more about the destination development strategies in Alberta and BC:


Stay Informed

Community members, interested investors, rights holders, stakeholders and partners can reach out to the Sustainable Journeys from Prairies to Pacific planning team here:

Jennifer Horsnell
Senior Program Manager, Destination Development
Destination Canada

Yvonne Chau
Manager, Destination Development
Travel Alberta

Emilie Cayer-Huard
Manager, Destination Development
Destination BC