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Elevating Cranbrook Tourism: A five-year journey with Kristy Jahn-Smith

Kristy Jahn-Smith in front of the Cranbrook visitor centre

Kristy Jahn-Smith is doing amazing things for Cranbrook Tourism.Chelsea Boyd-Gibson photo

Reflecting on achievements and previewing exciting new ventures for Cranbrook Tourism

by Danielle Brost

Kristy Jahn-Smith is celebrating her fifth year as Cranbrook Tourism’s executive director, and the city’s tourism sector has blossomed under her leadership. From building a dynamic team to assuming operations of visitor centres and establishing key partnerships, she has truly stepped up to the plate.

We had the opportunity to chat with Jahn-Smith, as she reflected on the milestones that have propelled Cranbrook's tourism industry forward. She shared insights into innovative campaigns, such as branding Cranbrook as the "Basecamp of the Kootenays" and launching mobile visitor services, enhancing visitor engagement.

Looking ahead to 2024, she provided a sneak peek into exciting programs and a refreshed brand strategy. With a commitment to fostering community and visitor experiences, Cranbrook Tourism continues to thrive with the help of Jahn-Smith's guidance.

How have you found the executive director role so far?

It’s been a really interesting and exciting five years. Early on, someone said this role was like “clay on the wheel”. Because I started at the organization’s inception, there was a real opportunity to shape things. That was both exciting and daunting. I had no predecessor whose playbook I could operate from. It's been a process of discovering the opportunities, working with the people and partners where we can find mutual success and not being afraid to test new things. I am really excited to see where the team and I are today after five years.

Can you highlight some of the major successes and accomplishments that Cranbrook Tourism has achieved over the past five years?

  • Building a team from one person to just over 30 when we are in the summer high season.
  • Assuming operations of the visitor centres in 2022.
  • Completing a Tourism Master Plan with partners in 2022.
  • Establishing diversified funding streams, in turn creating increased capacity within our organization.
  • Helping to foster a thriving event scene here in Cranbrook by supporting long-running events and helping new ones get started.

- Photo courtesy Cranbrook Tourism

Are there any specific initiatives or campaigns that you believe have contributed to the growth of Cranbrook's tourism sector?

Over the last five years we have branded ourselves as the “Basecamp of the Kootenays”—an idea that has caught hold and is woven throughout our marketing from billboards to trail maps.

In 2022 we launched mobile visitor services. We recognized that the old brick and mortar visitor centre is just that—an old model. We have invested in our team and our operations to get out to events and attractions with the visitor centre team. This means we can meet visitors where they are. For instance, in the summer months we set up at Fort Steele one day a week to meet visitors and even tour buses. This gives us a chance to talk about Cranbrook and what it has to offer with more people.

- Photo courtesy Cranbrook Tourism

Can you provide examples of partnerships or collaborations with local businesses, community organizations, or other stakeholders that have positively impacted Cranbrook's tourism industry?

Our Tourism Master Plan was a collaboration with The City of Cranbrook, The Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce and the Ktunaxa Nation.

We did a special project last year with the Ktunaxa called the “Ktunaxa Homelands” which was a three-part video series about their creation story. We are continuing work on this project in 2024.

We provide a number of sponsorships to event organizers to help them increase marketing and promotion of their events. A vibrant event scene is valued by residents and also attracts visitors.

Events we have sponsored include:

 Brian Clarkson photo

Looking ahead to the 2024 tourism season, what are some of the new programs or initiatives that Cranbrook Tourism has planned?

With our foundations established we are looking to refine some of our processes in 2024. We have some fun things our visitor centre team will be rolling out, and we are also working on our brand over the winter of 2023/2024 to ensure we are telling the most authentic story of Cranbrook and what makes it unique. 

Are there any specific target demographics or markets that Cranbrook Tourism is focusing on for the upcoming season?

We continue to target our mature markets in Alberta and the Kootenays as well as nurturing markets that are not as familiar with us (B.C. coast, U.S.). We are always working to get our current visitors to stay longer and make repeat trips, as well.

- Photo courtesy Cranbrook Tourism

Are there any upcoming events, festivals, or special promotions that visitors can look forward to experiencing in Cranbrook next year?

We have been working hard within the event scene to see more events flourish here. We have supported events through sponsorship, additional promotion, and support in securing grants. While a vibrant calendar of community events is important, we are also trying to secure recurring events. This year we were pleased to see some new events like Rock the Kootenays, Ed Fest, and The Cranbrook Beerfest debut.

Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?

The team at Cranbrook Tourism is a group of passionate people who love where they live. We're here to share that passion with visitors and residents alike. If you haven’t been to our location on downtown Baker Street in Cranbrook, you should. Say “hi”, grab a map, ask questions and buy a sweet Cranbrook t-shirt. People are always really impressed when they come in and see us.

Uncover the secrets of Cranbrook and discover your next adventure. Follow along and share your experiences with #ExploreCranbrook

Five fast facts about Cranbrook

  • Cranbrook's strategic location on the Trans-Canada Highway and the Canadian Rockies International Airport makes it easily accessible to travelers from across Canada and beyond, contributing to its status as a tourism hub.
  • This city is a golfer's dream come true, offering access to eight golf courses within a 30-kilometre radius.
  • Food enthusiasts will enjoy the diverse culinary scene, featuring everything from authentic Thai and Indian cuisine to organic and farm-to-fork options.
  • Cranbrook offers a vibrant recreational scene with indoor arenas, fitness centres, and more.
  • The city hosts an array of cultural events and festivals throughout the year.