More than six million people visited Edmonton in 2019 and spent more than $1.7 billion, according to Explore Edmonton.
Then the pandemic hit.
The tourism agency has a plan to help the rest of the world get to know the city once again.
Explore Edmonton’s Tourism Master Plan identified major components of a revival strategy, including a focus on the city’s river valley and a bid for FIFA 2026.
“We want to attract sporting events, conventions and bring back anything that was postponed or cancelled and get it back as soon as we possibly can,” said Maggie Davison, interim CEO of Explore Edmonton.
Davison said the 10-year framework will give a foundation not only on how to build back tourism from before but also highlight Edmonton as a destination of choice.
The plan acts as a guide to Explore Edmonton’s experience development initiatives, helping to develop more tourist experiences.
A forecast for the next 10 years of travel to the city was developed by Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics company. Over a 10-year period, nearly 40 per cent growth over 2019 visitation levels is expected despite the pandemic.
Visitor spending levels in Edmonton, however, are not likely to reach pre-pandemic levels until 2026.
“This is due to the fact higher spending market segments such as business travellers and international travellers are expected to recover more slowly.”
Davison explained that there’s a focus on the domestic market of visitors currently.
“Until the borders are open… and then we will start the marketing we traditionally do for the international market.”
The master plan works with many partners like city planners, the Edmonton International Airport and community leaders. It also consulted Edmonton residents.
“When asked for the top three words or phrases that come to mind when thinking of Edmonton, the most common responses from residents were: ‘river valley,’ ‘festive,’ ‘cold,’ ‘friendly,’ and ‘winter,'” the report read.
“Parks/outdoor space/natural scenery were rated as the best thing about living in Edmonton by residents, followed by friendly people, quality and number of local restaurants, easy access to quality health care and access to entertainment/arts/culture.”