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June was a good month for local tourism amid COVID-19: Travel Alberta

Moraine Lake in the Valley of the Ten Peaks of Banff National Park. Getty Images

COVID-19 has affected Alberta’s economy in many ways as the virus spurred the temporary closure of businesses, parks and industries across the province.

One of the sectors hit the hardest by the pandemic has been Alberta’s tourism industry. However, with Albertans looking closer to home to enjoy a staycation, officials said tourism in the province is back on the rise.

“When we moved into Phase 2, it was a really exciting time for our industry,” Travel Alberta’s vice-president of tourism strategy Karen Soyka said in an interview with Global News Radio 770 CHQR on Monday.

“We’re actually seeing a lot of Albertans getting out and enjoying Alberta’s parks.

“Prior to the pandemic, tourism really was on a growth trajectory for Alberta. It was a $9-billion industry that supports 22,000 businesses and 73,000 jobs around the province, so the impact COVID[-19] had was really quite devastating.”
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Read more: Southern Alberta tourist attractions see more local visitors amid continued Canada-U.S. border closures

With officials recommending local travel instead of leaving the province during the pandemic, Soyka said last month brought exciting numbers for tourism, especially in Alberta’s national parks.

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“Our national parks of Banff, Jasper and Waterton have seen really strong visitation in the month of June, and it’s really actually [only] 30 per cent lower than June of the previous year, so it really is a good news story.”

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Banff looks at mandatory masks after unanticipated busy summer visitation' COVID-19: Banff looks at mandatory masks after unanticipated busy summer visitation
COVID-19: Banff looks at mandatory masks after unanticipated busy summer visitation – Jul 14, 2020

Soyka said since Alberta attractions have begun to reopen, more Albertans have been able to take advantage of the areas usually rife with international visitors.

“It’s really exciting for us because we know there is usually a really strong demand from international travellers, so this is the perfect time for Albertans to get out and start exploring,” Soyka said.

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Soyka added that a large economic driver for Alberta’s tourism sector is hotels, noting that while bookings have been on the rise, planning to stay an additional night or two could help the parks get back on track amid the pandemic.

“We would love to see people traveling even further out and spending a few extra nights when they’re traveling,” she said.

Read more: Alberta tour operators prepare for a year of losses

While safety may also be a concern for many Albertans as parks see spikes in visitation numbers, Soyka suggests reaching out to businesses in the area to confirm their safety protocols and visitor limits before stopping in.

“A lot of businesses have said their focus right now is the health and safety of visitors and their staff. Albertans need to feel ready and safe to travel,” Soyka said.

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