Marketing experts weigh in on Alberta’s brand during 3rd wave of COVID-19

Click to play video: 'Marketing experts weigh in on Alberta’s brand during third wave of COVID-19' Marketing experts weigh in on Alberta’s brand during third wave of COVID-19
WATCH: Some health experts say the Alberta premier's latest restrictions have come too late, despite repeated calls to react weeks ago. Marketing consultants are now left wondering if this has damaged Alberta's brand beyond its borders. Jill Croteau reports. – May 4, 2021

Tourism is a multi-billion-dollar business in this province; the attraction of Alberta is not to be under-valued. But many feel the outside optics of how politicians are operating in the midst of the third wave of COVID-19 are ruining the province’s reputation.

Doctors in the province warned that patient numbers in ICUs could rise to over 300 by the end of the month and have called for tighter restrictions. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is poised to announce further health restrictions Tuesday night amid rising COVID-19 cases and an increase in anti-lockdown protests over the weekend.

“I think this is damaging the Alberta brand,” said Doug McArthur with the School of Public Policy at B.C.’s Simon Fraser University.

“I’m not sure it resonates as deeply as ‘Anti-Alberta’ as a place people would be willing to go and socialize but it does make people frustrated and angry about the Alberta government and the idea the government is trying to paint itself as a victim and hasn’t been able to step up and take responsibility.

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Read more: Schools go online as Alberta adds more COVID-19 restrictions for 3 weeks

“The majority of British Columbians believe Alberta has made some errors.”

Other marketing engagement agency experts like Cult Collective’s Bradley Foster said it’s not necessarily the politics of the pandemic. He said it’s more about the ability to capitalize on a timely return of tourists.

“One of the primary requirements for branding is you have to have a product, and I think that’s what’s getting in the way of everybody. They haven’t had a product to market,” Foster said. “If Alberta is lagging in being able to communicate what it has to offer and lagging in restrictions, there are potentially some issues where they may miss out on early demand for travel.”

Foster believes Canadians are paying more attention to reopening rather than missteps.

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EU recommends opening up to foreign travellers this summer amid COVID-19 – May 3, 2021

“People are watching the regions that are opening up. When we look at Las Vegas, they made an announcement about a music festival coming in September. This is the kind of thing from a marketing perspective. We look at the regions that are getting their product ready.”

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That’s the edge a struggling hotel industry is counting on. Sol Zia is the president of the Calgary Hotel Association.

“I think we all worry about reputation risk, but most of us are honouring restrictions and all businesses are doing that. It’s a few Albertans breaking the rules but they know for the most part businesses are honouring all the rules,” Zia said.

READ MORE: Alberta doctors say province heading to 300 COVID-19 patients in ICU by end of May

His hope is that any perceptions beyond our borders don’t linger, giving tourism a chance to recover in time for the summer.

“We are down 80 per cent in 2020 and $150 million in lost revenue for the city of Calgary, and we have 3,000 people still laid off,” Zia said. “We hope for an active summer for Calgary and the region.”

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