Banff tourism sees modest 5% increase in 2017, despite free park passes

Moraine Lake in the Valley of the Ten Peaks in Banff National Park near Lake Louise, Alta. The Canadian Press Images/Larry MacDougal

A spokesperson with Parks Canada said Friday the number of people visiting Banff National Park in 2017 was up only five per cent from the year before. That’s despite free entry to the park in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday bash.

“We did have fires in Kootenay and just west of Banff. That may have affected some people’s decisions,” said Dave McDonough, field superintendent for Banff National Park.

McDonough said there was a five per cent increase in vistors, up from 4 million in 2016. He said the strongest increase was in the spring.

LISTEN: A spokesperson explains the five per cent increase in visitors to Banff

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READ MORE: Parks Canada limiting access to Waterton Lakes National Park on Sunday, due to too many visitors

The modest increase appears to be in stark contrast to Waterton Lakes National Park, after it was reported on Aug. 6 that park officials were forced to turn people away “due to an extremely high volume of traffic” over the long weekend.

McDonough said that the Lake Louise area shuttle has moved over 150,000 people throughout the summer and that a shuttle to the popular Lake Minnewanka area has been averaging about 470 people a day.

READ MORE: Banff gets funding boost for area transit projects

“We anticipate we’ll continue to see increases in visitation over time and this is a great way to get people out of their cars and eliminate some of the congestion issues associated with increases,” he said.

McDonough is also renewing a warning to Albertans, reminding them not to approach animals too closely and keep food out of sight and reach.

“It is important that people understand that you are entering a wild place, these are wild animals,” he said.

McDonough said he expects the park will see a bump in tourism over the Labour Day weekend and throughout the fall, as Albertans visit the park to see the changing colours.

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