Canadian Rockies Websites
Like most popular destinations, the Canadian Rockies is well represented online. This page is a summary of the types of websites—good and bad—and why you should and shouldn’t use them.
There are five major types of Canadian Rockies websites:
Tourism organizations/Municipal websites
The Canadian Rockies span two provinces, five national parks, and dozens of towns. As a result, there is no umbrella tourism organization. Instead, you’ll find a number of different websites maintained by local tourism organizations, all of which are a good tool to help with planing your trip to specific destinations within the Canadian Rockies, and are generally at the forefront of social media trends to enhance exposure for themselves and local businesses. The latter is key—these websites are mostly funded by local businesses who generally supply their own content and expect some kind of return for their investment. As a result, there is no way to tell what restaurants are hot and which are not, which are the best lodging choices, and generally there is little content about non-commercial attractions.
Most municipalities in the Canadian Rockies have solid websites designed for both residents and locals. They are often a good source of information regarding issues like where to park, where public washrooms are located, and day-to-day issues you may want answers to.
The Parks Canada website is one of the most visited Canadian websites. It is a comprehensive data base of information, with a section dedicated to each national park. An enormous amount of content has been uploaded in the last few years that includes natural history, hiking trails, and social media-oriented sections that are kept up-to-date. Bottom line, we think it’s an excellent resource for learning more about the region—and not just because our own writers are contributors to the site.
Almost every tourist-oriented business in the Canadian Rockies has a website. They are easily found by using specific search terms, or through the links found on this website or those operated by tourism organizations.
In the travel genre, the best known of these increasingly influential user-generated review websites is Tripadvisor. Generally, they serve their purpose well when it comes to finding the best hotels and restaurants, but you’ve probably heard about businesses “gaming” the ratings by adding positive reviews for their own hotel or restaurant or writing negative reviews about the competitors—and it does happen—but overall ratings (especially if there are lots of reviews) can be generally trusted.
But keep in mind that ratings are often somewhat biased by two factors:
1) The type of people that post reviews. The demographic of people that feel the need (or have the time) to post an online review are not necessarily your average traveller or, more importantly, your type of traveller. For example, some of the most memorable places to stay in the Canadian Rockies are the many lodges located away from the towns, but they often get a lower ranking because a reviewer “couldn’t get room service” or “Internet access was not good.” The result? Solely using the rankings and reviews to choose accommodations may mean you miss out on a truly memorable Canadian Rockies experience.
The same scenario applies for restaurant reviews. The top ranked Banff restaurants on Tripadvisor are reliably a jumble of what our team considers good and bad. How do two or three chain restaurants always seem to be in the top 10? Why is an ice cream shop ranked higher than a fine dining restaurant that is generally regarded to be one of the best in Canada? Simply because a combination of the tastes of people that walk up and down Banff Avenue combined with the demographic that post online reviews is very different from the typical independent traveller looking for a unique experience.
2) Social media-savvy businesses. A new cafe opened in Banff early in 2014 and shot to the top of the Tripadvisor rankings. We agree with the ranking—it is a great place for coffee. The social media-savvy owners have garnered a large number of reviews in a short space of time, helped by an active Twitter feed, a Facebook page updated daily with stunning food photos, and responding quickly to every review that appears on Tripadvisor—all of which is a smart and admirable way to promote their business. But online marketing (like any type of advertising) is designed to create an impression—and one of the results is a bias on sites like Tripadvisor, when, in this case, the cafe is ranked against other equally popular businesses that attract a less-connected crowd that aren’t likely to post a review online.
There are a few of these covering the Canadian Rockies. Typically, tech companies based in far-flung places have bought up generic Canadian Rockies domains, filled them with questionable content, and then serve up ads to web users searching for specific content. If the site doesn’t have a contact address (ours is email@example.com) or offer up an About Us page, it is probably a content farm. If you really what to know the source of a website, check ownership at www.whois.net; if you want to find out where the content originated from, try cutting and pasting a section of text into a search engine and see what other results show up.