The Alberta government is hoping to double the amount of revenue the tourism industry brings in by 2035.
During a visit to Pincher Creek last week, Tourism Minister Joseph Schow said that while the industry is a huge economic driver, it has a long way to go.
“It’s exactly why we’re looking at our 10 tourism development zones, making sure people really explore all of Alberta, support those local economies and increase expenditures,” he said.
Statistics released by the province indicate just over $10.7 billion was spent in the tourism sector during 2022, a $600-million jump when compared to three years earlier.
To not only remain competitive with other destinations, but to grow its customer base, Schow believes industry partners and operators also need to target outside conventional boundaries, like neighbouring British Columbia.
“Who we’re really looking to is the high-value traveller. People coming from places like France and Germany … Japan,” he said. “Hopefully, well over $20 billion, which is our goal by 2035.”
The minister was joined by Livingstone-Macleod MLA Chelsae Petrovic and representatives from Travel Alberta in a Jan. 25 tour of a property near Twin Butte that owners Clint and Carter Marr are converting into tourist-based accommodations.
“The silos, themselves, are an incredible idea,” Schow shared.
“The Marrs have done a fantastic job already and I can’t wait to see the finished product. The view is spectacular and you can’t put a price on that. It’s breathtaking.”
The idea of using a farm or ranch for something other than its intended purpose isn’t new, but rural tourism, as it’s become known, could give the industry a leg up.
“I think everybody in rural Alberta has a story to tell,” the minister said.
“Travellers from Canada and around the world want to hear that story.”
MLA Petrovic said the riding has a lot of history to offer visitors.
“It’s vital in Livingstone-Macleod that we showcase our heritage and we do tourism our way and highlight our rural way of life. You just need to look at the Marrs’ silo accommodations, for example.”
She added that 60 per cent of farmers and ranchers don’t have a succession plan.
“When we look at how they’re incorporating their future generations into this project, it’s extremely exciting and extremely needed,” she said.
While not opposed in any way to expanding rural tourism in the MD of Pincher Creek, Reeve Dave Cox and his council believe there needs to be some form of supervision.
“Our challenge is to do it [develop tourism] within a sustainable way that the rest of the community accepts. Not everybody wants to be a tourism operator or business, but they will have to live with the consequences of being beside one.”
Since business licenses are not currently required in the MD, Cox accepts that the municipality isn’t able to know exactly who’s doing what.
Council hopes to find a balance.
By Dave Lueneberg, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Feb 02, 2024 at 14:27