Going on an adventure of a lifetime…

or how the Hinton Visitor Information Centre went above and beyond for visitors from China

Melissa Williamson, Donna Shaw and Melanie Widenmaier (missing Joanne Cole), Travel Alberta Hinton Visitor Information Centre

Melissa Williamson, Donna Shaw and Melanie Widenmaier (missing Joanne Cole), Travel Alberta Hinton Visitor Information Centre

For the staff at the Travel Alberta Hinton Visitor Information Centre, Sunday July 12 might have started off as an ordinary work day but it certainly didn’t end that way. That was the day Zhi Jun, a visitor from Beijing, China came in with her map of Jasper Hi-Lites. She’d come in to get some information about a bus that could take them around the beautiful Rockies that she and her elderly parents had travelled all the way from China to see. Unfortunately for Zhi Jun, the only bus that went to Jasper left at 7 p.m. which meant they could not go out to see the townsite during the day as planned.

The more the travel counsellors asked, the more they realized that Zhi Jun’s trip was in trouble even before it started.

For starters, the family was booked in at Hinton for all 10 days of the trip. They had arrived on VIA Rail, not realizing that Jasper and Hinton was not that close together and that Zhi Jun, holding only a learner’s license from China, could not rent a car. Even the idea of a private shuttle bus or a tour was impossible as it was well out of Zhi Jun’s budget.

The family was crushed by these revelations—visiting the Canadian Rockies was their dream vacation because it was where “the world [has] the most beautiful nature.”

After hearing that, there was no way that the travel counsellors would let Zhi Jun and her parents go home disappointed—so they stepped up and got down to work.

Famed Canadian hospitality comes to the rescue

The team contacted the Super 8 Hotel in Hinton to see if the hotel would release the family from their commitment without penalty. The hotel manager offered something better—she would hold their entire reservation, in case they could not get a booking in Jasper for more than a couple of days, but she would only charge them for the days they stayed.

Reaching out the Mountain Park Lodges (MPL) Properties, the travel counsellors hoped that the company could help as they owned six properties. When the owners heard Zhi Jun’s story, MPL Properties began to contact every hotel manager in Jasper until lodging could be found—even if it meant moving the family around every few nights. Meanwhile, the manager of the Super 8 offered to drive the family to Jasper because she lived there and wanted to help out.

It was at this point things got rather teary and after many thank you’s, Zhi Jun and her parents left to go back to the hotel. On the three kilometre highway walk back, a local passerby stopped and gave them a ride when he saw the family pushing Zhi Jun’s father’s wheelchair up the hill.

The generosity and efforts of the community paid off when the travel counsellors managed to secure reservations at the Sawridge Inn for seven nights. The Inn even offered Zhi Jun and her family a 10 per cent room discount, meal vouchers, free breakfast for her parents and a free ride to Jasper.

Zhi Jun called later to update the Hinton Visitor Information Centre staff about the adventure the family had enjoyed. “[…] many animals, maybe big horn sheep…I don’t really know but the most beautiful nature! We arrived at the Sawridge and we were so thankful to staff in Hinton, we will never forget you!”

The team at the Travel Alberta Hinton Visitor Information Centre was elated—this was truly the most rewarding outcome they could have asked for.

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