A grand opportunity

Jeff Burgar

People say this will be one great big driving and camping summer in Alberta.

Backed up demand, people sick of being cooped up and isolated, and the issues surrounding travel out-of-province and out-of-country. It isn’t just in Alberta. It’s happening everywhere.

Mostly we hear here in Alberta news from Ontario. And then it’s news about places like Canmore, Banff and Jasper, plus provincial campgrounds in southern Alberta. They will all be swamped this summer.

RV dealerships are reported saying prices are going up. One dealer in Edmonton says there is huge demand, with prices at levels “the same as what they were five years ago.” People want trailers, fifth wheels and motorhomes.

But right across North America, demand is so high there are actually shortages of new units. Also, factories often aren’t able to increase output because of COVID. The supply chain of parts is also affected. It’s all about more people than ever will be holidaying this year.

This should be good news for northern Alberta. As we often say, the geographic centre of Alberta is just a few kilometres south of Swan Hills. Central Alberta is actually places like High Prairie, Girouxville, Cold Lake and Kinuso. Basically, there is a huge amount of territory here and northward ready for tourists to explore.

Unfortunately, we do a poor job telling people about the north.

CBC recently did a nice story about Canmore. Gosh, the story gushed, Canmore is sure busy with tourists. Other CBC stories the past few months have waxed eloquently about how nice it is to hike in the back country around Rocky Mountain House and points south of that. That is, once you go around the trash and potty waste left by previous trekkers. A trifling sour point.

To be sure, there are wonderful places right across northern Alberta. Here, one can walk up many trails just off pavement. After 100 paces, one can expect to not see another human being for maybe months, if not years. For more civilized people used to fire pits and power plugins, there are also oodles of places both public and private.

The previously mentioned poor publicity we do is actually normal for almost all the province. In southern Alberta, unless there is something memorable like the Tyrell Museum at Drumheller, there also isn’t much publicity.

For example, Wainright and Drayton Valley, on each side of Alberta, have little promotion effort. Their town websites are uninspiring widgets of boredom. Pretty much like all websites. In a way, it’s a shame. But a greater, real shame is how pubic relations and news people goobers in Edmonton and Calgary think mountains are Alberta’s end all be all. Like, they have never seen a rock before!

Regardless, COVID and lockdowns willing, this should be a big summer. A real opportunity for all of us in the north to put our best feet forward in big and little ways. Never before has the saying “Smile. You are a tourist attraction,” been so true.

And will be rewarded for years to come we confidently predict. Tourism is only going to get bigger.

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