Tourism Lethbridge releases annual report: ‘We are the road less travelled’

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WATCH ABOVE: To say it has been a tough year for Lethbridge's tourism sector would be an understatement, with travel restrictions and business closures limiting what can be done. But as Jessica Robb reports, there has been a silver lining – May 10, 2021

It’s no surprise that the tourism industry took a hit in 2020 and Lethbridge’s tourism scene was no exception.

“The tourism sector was the first hit, the hardest hit and will be the last to recover from the pandemic,” Tourism Lethbridge CEO Jasmine Sangria said.

Read more: COVID-19 worse for tourism industry than SARS, 9/11 and financial crisis combined: report

Tourism Lethbridge released its annual report last week.

“We are the road less travelled. We’re a little bit of a detour from the ordinary,” said Sangria.

“There’s lots to do but you need to fly into Calgary or come to Calgary unless you’re visiting friends and relatives.”

A sharp decrease in air travel meant that Tourism Lethbridge had to pivot and change its target audience.

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So, it focused on getting southern Albertans to explore their own backyard.

Read more: Lethbridge residents encouraged to ‘rediscover’ their own backyard this summer

“It’s important that the citizens of Lethbridge discover what’s in their own backyard,” said Darrin Martens, CEO and executive director of the Galt Museum and Fort Whoop Up.

“Sometimes we don’t always recognize the richness, the diversity and the unique things we do have in Lethbridge.”

Martens said the Galt Museum saw a visitor decrease of 85 per cent, and Fort Whoop Up 50 per cent.

What they saw instead was a lot of day trippers.

“People coming and wanting to get out of their home city and experience something that might be new or they haven’t experienced for a number of years.”

Read more: Lethbridge’s Galt Museum proactively collecting items during historic COVID-19 pandemic

Lethbridge residents were stepping onto the trails at the the Helen Schuler Nature Centre Monday.

“The one thing that has never (gone away) throughout this whole pandemic is the outside,” said program co-ordinator Jessica Deacon-Rogers.

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The nature centre shifted to focus on outdoor exhibits rather than indoor ones.

“We work outside all the time in a normal year anyway, so we had a lot of assets, a lot of exhibits and a lot of programs that we could do just outside and not need the indoor space whatsoever.”

Read more: How to enjoy Lethbridge’s parks and pathways this spring during COVID-19

The pivot paid off and resulted in a 275 per cent increase in the use of the outdoor exhibits.

“We’re fortunate. It’s something that we could take from the experience we had before.

“I think we were better prepared, or better positioned, because of the nature of us working outside.”

The tourism industry had to pivot like many other industries throughout the pandemic.

“We have such a collaborative city that everyone is working together and helping each other,” said Sangria.

“The global pandemic has provided us with a unique scenario and one that we can sort of re-describe and reinterpret what the idea of tourist means,” said Martens.

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This summer, Sangria said they will again be focusing on getting southern Albertans to explore their own backyard.

“Depending on what happens this summer, we’ll be able to get people from everywhere else to come visit Lethbridge.”

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