The Athabasca River as seen from the Icefields Parkway in Jasper National Park back in 2020. | File photoScott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

When it comes to getting tourism back on track post-pandemic, Alberta is the advantage.

Last week, the province announced there was $10.7 billion in tourism spending in 2022, a figure $600 million over what was recorded in 2019 and nearly $4.5 billion more than 2021.

It’s also well ahead of the schedule set in The Bootstrap Plan, the province’s three-year business plan intended for a revitalized Travel Alberta to bolster marketing, air access and destination development so that the visitor economy would return revenues to where they should have been before 2024.

In 2021, Tourism Alberta was given an expanded mandate as a full destination management organization, allowing it to take responsibility for destination development plus promotion. 

To match its newer, bigger mandate, its budget was also increased in 2023, going from $63 million to $72 million over three years. 

“We’re signaling really to the rest of the country and the rest of the world that Alberta is open for business,” said Minister of Tourism and Sport Joseph Schow. 

Schow had just returned from Canada Showcase Europe, a major tourism expo that took place last week in Hamburg, Germany. There, many European tourism operators expressed their interest in Alberta to him.

“As a result of the attraction … we’ve seen such tremendous recoveries a lot faster than expected,” he said.

Jasper, as a mountain resort community, is one of the major centres for that international attraction. West Yellowhead MLA Martin Long has a theory for how Jasper brings the world to a broader understanding of the bounty that can be found in the whole of the province.

“I once heard from a very wise man on the tourism front about attracting people to our province with pretty dresses in the window and then selling them on the store while they’re here,” he said.

“I love that analogy because I think that’s the opportunity that we possess in Alberta.”

Beauty of location is one thing that allows Jasper to draw in the crowds, he continued, but the beauty of the people is just as important to keep them coming.

“We have some of the most incredible, welcoming people in the world who choose to make Jasper home,” Long said.

“People come to experience the mountains and the lakes and the surrounding area, and then they’re welcomed by people who understand that the true heart of hospitality is treating people like family when they arrive. For me, we’re sitting on just so much opportunity when we embrace that kind of beauty in our province. That will continue to sell our province for generations to come.”

James Jackson, CEO of Tourism Jasper, said that he wasn’t necessarily surprised by the overall recovery because of what he has observed in Jasper.

“Jasper, being an international leisure destination, recovered a little bit faster than other pockets of the province,” he said. “It’s fantastic news. What’s good for Alberta is good for Jasper.”

It goes the other way too. For many years, Tourism Jasper has had a strategy to diversify visitation away from the high season in summer to something that spreads tourism more evenly throughout the year.

It also has a strategy about quality tourism.

“We want to invite the right kind of visitors in the summer: the ones that value the park and want to contribute to our community,” Jackson said.

“Those are the types of folks that we want to come to Jasper, not one that just take and don’t contribute anything back into the destination. In the winter, we can facilitate more volume. We’ve got room to grow in the winter. But in the summer, we definitely don’t want more volume. We just want to optimize the volume that we do have here.”

By Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Nov 24, 2023 at 11:07

This item reprinted with permission from    The Fitzhugh    Jasper, Alberta

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