Waterton Lakes National Park opened later than usual this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and businesses in the town have lost a large portion of their American clientele amid the continued closure of the Canada-U.S. border.
Shameer Suleman with the Bayshore Inn Resort and Spa in Waterton said the season got off to a slow start, with weekdays seeing very little traffic.
Their normal six-month-long season was cut short to just 90 days.
However, now the weather is warming up, weekends have been quite busy with more Albertan visitors.
“We were sold out last weekend, sold out this weekend, which is fantastic,” Suleman said. “Great crowds, crowds we’re not used to seeing.”
Suleman said Waterton is often a pit-stop for American travelers heading to the Calgary Stampede, which was cancelled this year due to the pandemic.
He added that a surprising amount of Albertans aren’t aware of the national park which is nestled between the rocky mountains and the prairies.
“We would go to I don’t know how many trade shows in Calgary and Edmonton and most of what we’re doing is explaining where Waterton Lakes National Park is,” he said.
“They’ve all seen [pictures] and most of them think it’s beautiful, but they think it’s Banff.”
Suleman added the resort will be able to make ends meet with the local clients and a $40,000 business loan for the time being.
In Lethbridge, the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden is one of the city’s main tourist attractions.
The facility’s events manager Melanie Berdusco said they too have seen a drop in visitors since reopening in June.
“Our traffic has been a little bit lower than what we would normally see,” she said.
“We’re still seeing traffic come through from Calgary and the Medicine Hat region, which has been encouraging for us.”
Berdusco said the crowds have been fairly steady and hopes they remain that way until the end of the season.
In light of continued travel restrictions, marketing director with Tourism Lethbridge Stephen Braund is reminding Albertans to rediscover their own ‘backyards.’
“Calgary is a great short distance drive market for us,” Braund said.
“We know we have a lot of visitors from there, they were really strong supporters of our attractions in town and we want them to come down.”
-With files from Taz Dhaliwal