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Stampede attendance numbers suggest strong economic output for city

Between strong attendance numbers on the grounds, and full hotel rooms off, this year’s Stampede is suggesting strong economic impacts for Calgary.

Speaking to the media on July 15, Calgary Stampede CEO Joel Cowley said that the first full Stampede in three-years feels like turning a corner for the city.

“It’s incredibly meaningful to the local economy as well as we see visitors returned particularly those visitors that come from out of Canada,” he said.

As of Thursday, July 14, attendance to the 10-day event has outpaced 2014 through 2017, and is on par with the last pre-pandemic Stampede in 2019.

This year-to-date there have been 855,620 visitors to the grounds. This is just 12,551 shy of 2019’s 868,171 on Day 7.

Alberta back on track for success

Premier Jason Kenney said that it was a signal that Alberta was back on the economic track to success, after a long period of economic hardship for the province.

"All of that has turned around, and I think they're on the cusp of breaking that attendance record at the Stampede this year, and I understand the rodeo and the grandstand shows are sold out," he said.

"So I think we're on the cusp of an historic high watermark for the Calgary Stampede just as we're at a high watermark in Alberta's economy."

Premier Kenney pointed to the impact that this is having on the hard-hit tourism sector in the province.

"We see that coming back really strong now—I wouldn't say quite to 100 per cent," he said.

"But mind you, you can hardly get a hotel room in Calgary this week, so I think it's a great sign for the folks who've been just battered in the tourism and travel industries."

Trending for recovery of financials, economic output

The Conference Board of Canada assessed the economic activities of Calgary Stampede at $540 million in 2019, with an approximate $280 million from the 10 days of Stampede itself.

The Stampede said they were monitoring current trends in the marketplace, including those for hotels, but that they expected overall economic benefits from this year to be more in line with years past.

Speaking directly to the financial situation for the Calgary Stampede itself, Cowley said that they expected to be have positive net revenue this year. The Stampede posted losses of $26 million in 2020, and $8.3 million in 2021.

"Looking at this year, we'll come out of this in the black, and so we're terribly excited about that because we've assumed a great deal of debt over the last two years," he said.

Hotel occupancy rates approaching 90 per cent in Calgary

Calgary Hotel Association Executive Director Sol Zia said that in Calgary right now average occupancy is about 90 per cent. He said that the last time this occurred was in 2015.

"I mean, it's a huge impact to to Calgary's economy on the tourism side, and it's also very important to the recovery of tourism overall," he said.

"If we didn't have a strong Stampede coming out of the pandemic, it would make recovery much tougher."

The city's hotels, said Zia, would pretty much be entirely sold out for the two weekends of the stampede, with certain nights at 100 per cent occupancy.

Zia said that despite the strong showing, there is still a lot of recovery left to be done in the hotel industry. Pre-pandemic, the average room rate was more than $300 per night. Right now, it’s about $280 for peak Stampede pricing.

"Good, but you know, much lower than then pre-pandemic numbers," he said.

CBRE indicated in March of this year that average daily rates, occupancy, and revenue per available room (RevPAR) would be expected to grow by 43 per cent over pandemic lows nationally, although they would remain lower than pre-pandemic levels for 2022.

The Q1 report from CBRE indicated that Calgary would lead the way for RevPAR recovery at $62, versus $53 for Edmonton and $55 for the province as a whole. Average occupancy was also forecast to rise to 47 per cent, from a pandemic low of 24 per cent in 2020.

With files from Hajar Al Khouzaii