Alberta tourism rebounding, says province

Banff National Park, Alberta.

Credits: FOTOLIA.


CALGARY — People who depend on Alberta's tourism industry can breathe easy again following strong indicators it's on the rebound after years of decline from global recession, says a provincial bureaucrat.

Bruce Okabe, CEO of Travel Alberta, said they are seeing a resurgence in the tourism industry across the province.

"They're going absolutely fantastic," said Okabe, who was in Calgary on Friday speaking with local groups about Alberta's tourism brand and the marketing agency's strategies and programs."Alberta is leading the country in terms of growth of tourism revenue.

Okabe cited the 8% revenue growth seen by Calgary's Glenbow Museum this year and the 1.4 million visitors to the Calgary Stampede last July.

"They've never had that many,” he said. “Things are doing very well."

He also mentioned the 8% increase in traffic coming from B.C., Montana and Saskatchewan, as well as a 4% growth in hotel occupancy and revenue.

Okabe wasn't able to give equivalent dollar figures for the growth over the past two years, but he said a report by the Statistics Canada in 2010 indicated tourism in Alberta was worth $5.5 billion, supporting about 92,000 jobs and generating about $2 billion in taxes.

Out of the $2 billion, $1.3 billion went to the feds, about $565 million to the province and the rest to the municipalities.

"At the end of the day, what that means is that tourism works for everybody and it's good and it feeds the Alberta economy overall," said Okabe.

Tourists from Europe, Asia and Latin American countries come to the province to see the Canadian Rockies, but those who are familiar with Alberta's landscape travel to other destinations.

Travel Alberta recently launched the second phase of its marketing campaign Remember to Breathe, featuring the southern Alberta and Calgary's controversial Peace Bridge.

Okabe didn't want to reveal how much the agency spent in producing the campaign that can be seen in YouTube.

"That's a number that I'm sure British Columbia would like to hear. So, for confidential reasons, I'm not going to tell you," he said.

"We were on budget and it's having the impact we thought it would. People just love it."

Meanwhile, Tourism Calgary has requested more cash from the city to restart a program it stopped last year due to lack of budget.

Tourism Calgary is asking for $854,450 over two years, added to the more than $2.4-million annual allocation it receives from the city, until Travel Alberta is able to provide the agency with more cash in 2015.

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