With the province and rest of the world slowly moving past the COVID-19 pandemic, Edmonton’s tourism industry is hopeful for a return to business as usual, but getting back to pre-pandemic levels may take some time.
To say the tourism industry has had a rough go is an understatement for Claudio Ongaro, owner of Ongaro’s Outdoor Outfitters.
“We rely entirely on the tourism sector.”
A recent ATB tourism sector report shows Alberta had just over 3,000 international visitors in March of this year, compared to more than 100,000 in March 2019.
“We went from 100 per cent fully booked to zero,” Ongaro said.
He said virtually all of his clients come from the United States and abroad.
But with vaccinations on the rise and travel restrictions easing, there is optimism the industry will start to pick back up.
“I’m very hopeful and I talk to my clients everyday and it looks like they are starting to book tickets and they are ready to come.
“I’m fully booked. I was fully booked last year from the guys who wanted to come back after the 2019 season,” Ongaro said.
But while plans are in the works, it’s still very much a wait-and-see situation.
“Recovery is going to be slow,” said Daniel St. Pierre, a director with Explore Edmonton. “The tourism industry was the first hit… and it’s going to take the longest to recover.”
St. Pierre said they are working to enhance local attractions while working with all levels of government and the airport to eventually welcome an influx of domestic and international visitors.
“As things open, we see these guidelines kind of roll out and hit the benchmarks.
“We’ll be able to start marketing, starting regionally, moving out nationally and then we’ll move back into international markets to try and attract visitors in the city.”
If restrictions continue to open up, St. Pierre said he is hopeful for a rise in local tourist activity by the end of the summer.