CANMORE – The tourism industry is taking its first steps in rebounding from the impacts of COVID-19.
The sector was largely shutdown and financially devastated by the pandemic and as National Tourism Week takes place May 23 to 30, the industry is encouraging Canadians to spend time visiting local sites.
In the Bow Valley, a large aspect of the economy is reliant on a certain level of tourism. Whether it’s people visiting to experience the mountains and the environment or the service industry needing people to stay in hotels or eat at restaurants, tourism is a vital aspect of the local economy.
“While we at TIAC (Tourism Industry Association of Canada) and other organizations continue to advocate for the reopening of Canada’s borders, we are asking Canadians to choose to travel in Canada first to support our industry and kickstart the recovery,” TIAC president and CEO Beth Potter said at a media conference prior to the launch of tourism week.
She noted the difficulty since March 2020, but expressed an optimism as vaccines continue to be distributed and the lifting of public health restrictions are on the horizon. As it occurs, she asked for people to take the tourism pledge in travelling locally and nationally opposed to outside the country.
“We are calling on Canadians to take the 2021 Tourism Pledge to travel in Canada first, when restrictions are lifted. This is an invitation to come together as a country and support our local tourism destinations, businesses, and employees.”
Potter said they’ll be launching new initiatives and video to help highlight tourism in Canada.
The postcard campaign is designed to invite Canadians to send specifically designed tourism postcards to friends and family to encourage travel to specific locations within the country’s borders.
The program – found at www.postcardsfromcanada.ca – is one of the efforts to help domestic marketing, Destination Canada CEO Marsha Walden said.
According to statistics from TIAC, the tourism economy accounts for two per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product and employs about 1.8 million people.
In Alberta, it’s estimated tourism contributes about $10 billion annually to the economy and brings more than 36 million visitors to the province, per statistics from Invest Alberta.
Travel Alberta also estimates about 68,800 jobs are tourism-related and there were about 20,000 tourism-based businesses in 2018.
The Alberta government also prioritized the tourism sector in their recent budget, which aims to contribute $20 billion a year by 2030 to the province.
Tourism has already approached near maximum levels in the valley though. In 2020, Kananaskis Country Provincial Park had an estimated 5.39 million visitors compared to 4.1 million in 2019. Banff National Park also regularly had north of four million visitors a year.
There’s also been several local programs to help businesses. Tourism Canmore Kananaskis is offering free basic marketing services this year to help promote and create digital strategies. They also have the Hope for Hospitality initiative to provide gift cards to local tourism and hospitality frontline workers laid off during COVID-19.
The Bow Valley Chamber of Commerce also ran the COVID-19 restart fund – which had the Town of Canmore contribute about 90 per cent of the funding – to help provide grants for businesses impacted by the pandemic.
Banff and Lake Louise Tourism also announced plans for the upcoming year at its April 27 annual general meeting, while the Tourism Industry Association of Alberta held a poll to help better gauge the economic impact of how Albertans recreate in the outdoors on Crown land.
The Tourism Industry Association of Alberta (TIAA) held a town hall May 26 and asked businesses to light up their businesses green the same day to show they're 'glowing green' during Tourism Week.
“People are going to do things they normally do in their backyard, but we need them to realize this is a unique summer and they need to spend in a manner that is commiserate with how they would spend if they went on a long haul trip,” Darren Reeder, the TIAA board advisor, said at the media conference. Many people do not understand the contribution of international visitors are anywhere from six to eight times what our local residents spend, so it’s really important we encourage people to spend generously in what they do.
“I think beyond asking people to take travel pledges and to get excited about experiencing things in their backyard, it’s really summoning this idea we have to support local and it’s never been more important to bring back our way of life, to bring back our communities and to support our friends and families in resumption to normal work activity.”