The future of Calgary’s experience economy

May 5, 2023
Life in Calgary New Economy
NEL people

Calgary is emerging as one of the best places to build a life as the experience economy builds vibrant, healthy and accessible communities. The first New Economy LIVE of 2023 explored how Calgary organizations are reimagining experiences to be inclusive for all.  

Defined as the mass customization of services, the experience economy in Calgary includes programs and events in the arts and culture community, theatre productions, the local culinary scene and professional sport and community facilities. 

The experience economy is about bringing people together and providing unique and memorable experiences.” said Kim Griffin, Senior Consultant, Stone-Olafson 

“In Alberta, it is a multi-billion dollar industry and important to our economy, but also critical to building a high quality of life.” 

With livability a key driver in the city’s economic strategy, building an inviting city with year-round experiences is a priority in the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy. 

Collaboration key to connectivity in the new economy 

Griffin presented findings from Stone-Olafson's recent market research on community perceptions towards experiences. The Winter 2023 report revealed affordability is top of mind for Calgarians and collaboration among organizations can create wins for both consumers and civic partners.  

“We know that Calgarians want to try new things, but in order for them to take the plunge, the experiences offered have to be easy, attractive, cognizant of community connection and timely,” said Griffin.  

To address consumer hesitancy, Calgary companies need to offer simplified and reliable experiences, and explore opportunities to collaborate across sectors.  

“Interconnectedness is at the core of Calgary’s experience economy, especially since Calgarians have indicated they are interested in participating in more than one type of activity when considering their options,” said Griffin. 

Almost three-quarters – 74 per cent – of Calgarians would like to participate in experiences from more than one category when choosing between arts and culture, watching professional sports, participating in sports, visiting attractions or enjoying a meal. 

“Calgary organizations sow the seeds to create a garden of experiences. Together, we need to invite Calgarians to come, enjoy the gardens we have created together, and invite them to build their own bouquet,” said Patti Pon, President and CEO, Calgary Arts Development

Ranked the third most livable city in the world by the Economist Intelligence Unit with top marks in culture, environment and education, Calgary is attracting people from around the world as one of the best places to build a life. 

“Our experience economy will only move forward if all organizations move forward together. It’s not possible to have a world-class city – which Calgary is – without a world-class arts and culture scene, and a community offering an array of experiences,” said Maya Choldin, Executive Director, Theatre Calgary. 

In 2022, the city welcomed over 42,000 net new migrants, the single largest increase in population due to net migration in over 20 years.  With a growing population, Calgary organizations are taking an intentional approach to inclusivity. 

“We work with community partners to build accessibility for marginalized groups in Calgary, so all children and youth can experience the power of sport,” said Jennifer Konopaki, Vice President, WinSport. “We also partner with newcomer agencies to address the barriers, understand the lived experiences and provide valuable opportunities for as many people as possible in the community.” 

Panelists agreed accessibility and inclusivity are key to creating meaningful experiences for community members. 

“We are trying to reach the widest audience and tweak the products and programs we offer,” said Roderick Tate, Interim President and CEO, TELUS Spark. “Ultimately, we want everyone in our community to see themselves reflected in what is being presented in our annual programming.”   

In a post-pandemic world, the data shows consumers are looking for representation and connectivity in experiences. 

“We know people are meant to spend time with other humans and it’s this relational experience that drives us and the experience economy as a whole,” said Choldin. 

“The theme for Theatre Calgary’s next season is Theatre for All. We want to create a space where everyone is welcome and create experiences in local theatre that are accessible to all. We aim to remove barriers for Calgarians and keep the promise of the experiences we offer.” 

As organizations continue to build programs representative of the dynamic communities they serve, the city ‘s experience economy is shaping Calgary’s future as a connected and vibrant destination for locals and visitors.  

The New Economy LIVE event series aims to engage Calgarians in the economic strategy and the interconnected drivers that create long-term prosperity and an inclusive economy. Learn more about the economic strategy driving livability for Calgarians.  

Stone-Olafson Experience Economy Report

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