May long weekend is here, and with the holiday usually comes the opening of attractions across the city.
The three-day weekend marks the beginning of tourism season for many Calgary-based attractions as they officially open their gates to the public. And after more than two years of closures and restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many are hoping 2022 will be a year of renewed possibility and record-setting visitation numbers.
One place looking forward to a great season is Heritage Park. The park opened to visitors this weekend and is already seeing large numbers passing through.
“Last time I checked — which was about a month ago — we had more than 320 tour groups coming from around the world which exceeds any one of the best years we’ve ever had.” Lindsey Galloway, president and CEO of Heritage Park, said.
On average, Heritage Park welcomes around 3,000 guests a day, but throughout the pandemic, only one-third of that number visited the site.
“Heritage Park has managed to stickhandle through, persevere like all Calgarians and Calgary businesses, so we’re pretty pleased to have made it through what we hope is the worst part of it.”
With almost all restrictions gone and larger events now returning to the city, Carson Ackroyd, senior vice-president of sales with Tourism Calgary, said this could have a ripple effect on smaller attractions across the Calgary region.
“Our larger events often times mean visitors come to the city and they want to experience things like Heritage Park, Calgary Zoo and others as part of their trip to Calgary,” Ackroyd said. “As we start to see the rebound for all of our events, I expect you’ll see staples of our attractions in Calgary have very, very strong summers as well.“
Calaway Park is hoping that’s the case as it opened its doors for its 41st season this weekend.
Bob Williams, general manager of the park, said he believes this year could go down in the record books thanks to a renewed sense of normalcy amid the last two years.
“It feels… normal,” Williams said. “We’re opening on the traditional May long weekend that we have when we opened in 1982.”
Williams added that a hike in prices at the pump could also contribute to residents wanting to stay local this summer.
“Calaway’s RV park and campground are up in reservations, we think it’s going to be a regional market,” he said. “People are going to stay closer to home.
“With fuel prices and everything else, people from Saskatchewan, southeast British Columbia and Alberta, we believe, will be our market this year.”
— With files from Craig Momney, Global News