There was a lot to process that occurred in the Bow Valley in 2019 before heading into the new year.
This is the time of year for slowing down and reflecting, both towards the past and into the future.
When it comes to 2020 for the residents and businesses of the Bow Valley, there is much to be excited about and a lot of hard work.
That work includes the continued persistence of valley residents to stand up for the values they hold near and dear. For many that means speaking up for the environment and nature – for the wildlife that lives here as well and for principles that if embraced and incorporated into government plans would recognize that undisturbed natural spaces have incredible value. And not just a dollar value – an intrinsic importance and priority should be placed on ecological integrity above all else.
This leads us to one of the big stories residents and Canadians can expect in 2020 – Parks Canada’s new 10-year management plan for Banff National Park, among others.
The last 10-year management plan set out the future direction and expectations of Parks Canada when it comes to this natural treasure and UNESCO world heritage site. But it was challenged as a result of the fact some of the language in this plan wasn’t as clear or straightforward as some may have thought.
Looking forward to 2030, reflecting upon the challenges that the national park is already experiencing as a result of setting goals of ever-increasing visitation each year – we can only hope that Parks is up to the task at hand. Not only does it have to draft a new plan for the next 10 years, but it has to also provide clear language, direction and expectations in the plan on things that have been left rather unclear in the past. Especially when it comes to how the plan affects the municipality of Banff proper.
To the east of the federally managed park, we have in this valley a large area of parks and protected areas that fall under the responsibility of Alberta Parks.
Travel Alberta has set a new goal of increasing tourism spending in the province to $20 billion by 2030 and this directly affects the Bow Valley and these provincially protected natural treasures.
Many residents of the valley are wondering where these additional tourists that will spend another
$10 billion a year are going to visit while in the province.
There is little doubt or argument that the Rocky Mountains and this location in particular are the crown jewels of tourism in Alberta. But there are times and places where this has created negative consequences – crowding, traffic, congestion, parking issues, and a diminished tourism product.
As we move into 2020, Travel Alberta is hard at work on its next 10-year strategic plan with feedback and planning sessions scheduled in January for Calgary and Edmonton.
We would suggest that it is a glaringly obvious missed opportunity to engage Bow Valley tourism operators in this process to not hold any sessions here. But maybe that’s the point. Maybe by not hosting any public sessions in the valley, officials with the destination management organization can avoid these awkward, but necessary, conversations.
Residents and businesses of the valley, however, deserve to be heard on this strategic plan. Especially since mountain destinations account for a third of all tourism spending in Alberta. Canmore, Banff and Jasper currently represent approximately $3 billion in tourism spending each year.
Not only do tourists spend money here, but they have an effect on our communities and ecosystems and these considerations, more than anything, have been missing completely from tourism conversations in this province for decades already.
Who knows? Maybe with two new plans from two new government agencies, 2020 will be the year they get it right.