BANFF – Banff Lake Louise Tourism plans to continue its bid to bring more visitors to Banff National Park during the shoulder and winter seasons.
The 2019 business plan and $12 million budget for Banff and Lake Louise – an area that attracts more than four million tourists a year with no signs of slowing down – was presented to Banff council last week.
Tourism officials say the plan targets annual average hotel occupancy of 71.9 per cent and an increase in room nights of 14,000 in the quieter times in November, early December, January and April.
“We are a year-round destination and have a thriving tourism economy in Banff,” said Leslie Bruce, president and CEO of BLLT. “We’re working to grow visitation in the winter and shoulder seasons to support local businesses in those softer months.”
BLLT’s 2019 budget includes revenues of $11.5 million, including $10.1 million raised from hotel tourism improvement fee and other sector membership fees. The other $1.4 million comes from grants, event tickets, Mountie meet-and-greet program and funding partnerships.
Total expenses for 2019 are anticipated to be approximately $12. 1 million. About $7.6 million is budgeted for global marketing, $3.2 million for visitor experience and $1.2 million for finance and administration.
Bruce said BLLT is budgeting a deficit of $600,000 intentionally, based on a very strong 2018 and a desire to continue “building that demand and investing in the future.”
“This will allow us to make longer-term plans and look at growth around events that we do believe are a very important part over the next few years,” she said.
“It also allows to increase our investment in our winter campaign, which has been fantastic in the last few years and something we are confident we can continue to deliver.”
In 2019, BLLT will continue marketing the shoulder and winter seasons, with a focus on boosting Banff and Lake Louise as a quintessential Christmas destination and an all-around winter experience.
Specifically, some of the tactics include increasing and extending Christmas event and animation activity from mid-November through December as well as expanding snow sculpture events on Bear Street and in the downtown core.
There are also plans to introduce Tribute to Craft Spirits Festival during SnowDays and introduce a series of collaborative dinners and other member-initiated food offerings to create a culinary weekend around Cochon555.
Bruce said events are essential in driving demand and increasing overnight visitation during quieter periods, noting BLLT is now a primary sponsor of The Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival in fall.
She said events provide an added reason to visit along with opportunities to extend the weekend by promoting reasons to stay beyond Saturday night for regional visitors.
“We began some work this year with further activation around Christmas,” said Bruce.
“We see an opportunity here to really bring to life what is really special about the Rockies and national park during the Christmas season.”
Big picture, the plan is to grow markets such as Canada, the United States, Mexico and China.
BLLT plans to continue monitoring the current Canada-China political climate and, according to its business plan, is “looking forward to a return to regular tourism business.” In the meantime, to meet targets, focus will continue on the other growth markets.
In 2018, more than 750,000 Chinese travelled to Canada. This is a 13 per cent, year-over- year increase. Almost 15 million Americans travelled to Canada last year, a three per cent increase from the year before.
“There are several other markets we are maintaining and we’re continuing to invest,” said Bruce, pointing to Netherlands, Germany, India, South Korea, Japan and Australia.
“We, of course, have other markets like France that are becoming more on our radar.”
Some of the plans include focusing on key wants and needs driving tourism around the world, such as adventure, food, wellness and skiing, as well as meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibition business.
For 2019, skiing remains an important part of the tourism industry.
BLLT will continue implementing its Growing Food Tourism Strategy, which aims to build Banff and Lake Louise’s reputation as a “where to eat” destination, and focus on bringing more conferences and meetings to the area.
Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen, who sits on BLLT’s board of directors, thanked the tourism bureau for all it does.
“The past 10 years in terms of Parks, and the Town of Banff and Banff Lake Louise Tourism, we’ve been making every effort not to operate in silos, but in partnership – and it’s paying off,” she said.
The 2019 events calendar includes TSN Curling Feb. 1-3, Cochon555 April 6, Banff Marathon June 14-16, Banff Centre Mountain Film & Book Festival Oct. 25-Nov. 3; Banff Christmas Market Nov. 21-24; Banff Craft Beer Festival Nov. 21-23 and Lake Louise World Cup Nov. 29-30, Dec. 6-8.