Albertans asked to ‘explore their backyard’ to boost travel and tourism industry

Non-essential interprovincial travel isn't yet advised, so Travel Alberta suggests hitting close to home this year

Yoho National Park, Rocky Mountains as the Canadian Pacific Railway train goes by / MADASYN KOST FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

It’s no secret that the ongoing pandemic is having a dramatic effect on the tourism industry.

International flights have been grounded, hotels have shut their doors and all public events have been cancelled.

This year, the Calgary Stampede was cancelled for the first time in 100 years. 

The Stampede serves as a summertime tourism anchor in the city, bringing in millions in revenue for Alberta.

According to the Calgary Stampede,  the park “hosts over 1,200 business, tourism, sporting, hospitality and community events and welcomes more than four million guests. These events create thousands of jobs and contribute more than $540M to the Alberta economy.”

Tourism: ‘It’s not a quick fix’

Mayor Nenshi, who sits on the Calgary Stampede board said that Calgary’s biggest money makers are oil and gas, retail, and travel and tourism. All have taken a huge hit thanks to COVID-19.

“Calgary will actually require additional assistance because we certainly will be hit harder than other city in Canada,” said Nenshi. 

Shelley Grollmuss, Vice President of Industry Development at Travel Alberta said tourism is definitely taking a hit.

“It’s going to take us probably a number of years to get back to where we would like to see things resume again prior to, to the COVID situation,” said Grolmuss.

“This is gonna be a longer journey for us definitely. It’s not a quick fix.”

Whether businesses are ready to reopen or not, there are a lot of concerns. 

“Probably over two thirds of our operators are quite concerned about being unable to open for the summer season, […] and probably about 45 per cent are actually worried about getting customers back for those that are able to reopen,” said Grollmuss.

The Rocky Mountains are key

According to the Alberta government over 5 million Canadians visited the Rocky Mountains in 2017.

View of the Canadian Rockys at Spray Lake, Spring 2020 / MADASYN KOST FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

The Rocky Mountains also attract thousands of global visitors each year but due to travel restrictions, Alberta can’t count on those visitors to provide revenue.

“Given that we aren’t able to welcome international visitors this year, that’ll be a significant decline for them, (Canadian Rockies) and they will have to kind of pivot and look at what opportunities there are within the province to bring people out to the Rockies,” said Grollmuss. 

As of June 1, Parks Canada have reopened with limited visitor services.

Banff along with Lake Louise are also starting to welcome visitors back into town. During the height of the coronavirus, mayors in Alberta’s mountain towns were asking Calgarians to put a hold on travel to their area.

On May 28, Banff & Lake Louise Tourism put out the following statement on travel to their area.

“In the town of Banff, gradual steps are being taken to reopen some businesses and services. Based on current public health guidelines and Alberta’s relaunch strategy, businesses and services are reopening as they were, or in new capacities.” 

Hotels in Banff are also starting to reopen, including the Fairmont Banff Springs. Its reopening date of June 1 marks its 132 birthday.

Albertans must come together

Grollmuss said Travel Alberta is reaching out to all cities within the province to find out what businesses plan to open.

She said a new database has been created in order to provide up to date information for travel goers. 

She said this is a great time for Albertans to explore their backyard and help boost our own economy by supporting local businesses. 

Grollmuss said travel and tourism is “a significant economic contributor and helps to diversify our provincial economy” and is a $9 billion industry.

Currently non-essential travel outside of Alberta is not recommended and people are asked to take the necessary precautions which include physical distancing and limited gatherings.

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