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Bookings, spending forecasts point to Alberta tourism sector bouncing back

With travel taking a back seat for many over the past two years due to high inflation, a pandemic and soaring gas prices, 2023 looks to drive home local experiences.

In June, Canada’s inflation rate cooled to 2.8 per cent, which could be one reason some southern Alberta organizations are seeing more locals come out and enjoy the sights.

In fact, Tourism Lethbridge indicated it saw an increase of 1,000 visitors at Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden during the month of June.

“According to Destinations Canada, we should be seeing — and we are seeing — a quick return to the domestic market,” said Tourism Lethbridge president Michelle Day Miles.

“This is because, I think, inflation is stopping people from travelling really far.

“So again, we’re kind of at that backyard, kind of supporting local experiences and products, which is fantastic,” Day Miles added.

Newly opened businesses like Little Gem Winery, near Nobleford, Alta., can also attest to feeling that local love, as hundreds of people have already gone out to support one of the region’s newest tourist destinations.

“A couple tour companies from Medicine Hat want to book tours now coming out this way, so it’s been further outreach, quicker than we expected from what we thought would be the Lethbridge area,” said Joel Mans, co-owner of Little Gem Winery.

“In the future, we want to start targeting Calgary and Edmonton, trying to bring more tourism down to southern Alberta.”

Meantime, in Waterton Lakes National Park, bookings at the Bayshore Inn and Waterton Glacier Suites are returning to pre-pandemic levels.

Owner Shameer Suleman says they’ve seen a return of more people from across the pond.

“We’re kind of getting back to that normal state where we’re seeing a lot of our American travellers back. We’re seeing a lot of our international travellers coming back. So, those numbers are kind of back to normal for us,” said Suleman.

“And of course, the Alberta traveller and Canadian traveller are filling in the gaps.”

According to Travel Alberta chief marketing officer Tannis Gaffney, that full return of international visitors is expected to be seen across the province by 2026, which will generate even more revenue for businesses.

“We know that the international visitors spends almost twice as much as the regional or Canadian visitor. So, we’re hoping to attract those high-value international visitors to Alberta so they’re going to spend more and stay longer,” Gaffney said.

In a January 2023 Travel Alberta forecast, tourists are expected to spend $10 billion in Alberta this year, which would also mark a return to pre-pandemic levels.

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