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Tourism in Alberta: 2016 Year in Review

Despite downward trends in Alberta’s economy during 2016, Alberta tourism demonstrated resiliency. Through customer brand awareness and advocacy, and by presenting travellers with compelling invitations and exceptional experiences, Team Alberta created a sense of urgency and motivation for our target customers to plan their vacations here.

As the year draws to a close, here is a quick look at some key industry highlights from the past twelve months.

Winter (January-March)

The first quarter presented a rather sluggish couple of months as economic woes continued throughout the province. Employment in the accommodation and food services sector dropped by 12 per cent in January compared to the same month in 2015. This decrease continued into February 2016. However, the Canadian Rockies remained resilient. Banff, Jasper and Waterton Lakes National Parks all saw increases in attendance over 2015 numbers; Waterton Lakes saw a significant 37.6 per cent increase during the first three months of 2016 over 2015. Also, Banff had the highest daily room rate and revenue per available room in Alberta ($159.78 and $82.39 respectively).

Travel Alberta supported Alberta’s resilient tourism industry and engaged travellers in a variety of ways:

  • Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Events (MICE) team identified opportunities and executed plans to attract qualified meetings, incentive travel programs and conventions to Alberta at the Western Retail Lumber Association annual conference and two-day buying show. Learn more…
  • Cooperative Marketing Investment Program updated to serve partners better. Learn more…
  • Global Consumer Marketing team launched new marketing campaign and used cinematics to stop time and capture the thrill of Alberta. Learn more…

Other industry highlights from the first three months included the following:

  • Discover Banff tours stayed fresh by taking risks. Learn more…
  • Atlas Coal Mine brought history to life through stunningly authentic story telling. Learn more…
  • Destination Canada announced the Cooperative Marketing Program. Learn more…
  • The Francophone Economic Development Council of Alberta (CDÉA) collaborated with the Government of Alberta on new initiatives. Learn more…
  • Falcon Crest Lodge set the bar as top performing Canadian hotel. Learn more…
  • Rural Tourism Conference supported a growing industry. Learn more…
  • Edmonton Events won sport tourism organization of the year award. Learn more…
  • 2016 Alberta Visitor Information Providers (AVIP) Conference collaborated with Alberta communities to improve their understanding of visitor services practices. Learn more…
  • Federal Budget targeted travel and tourism for economic growth. Learn more…

Spring (April-June)

As the business sector continued to face economic challenges, leisure tourism showed some encouraging signs. Alberta resorts saw growth over 2015 numbers in May and June and the Calgary International Airport held its own while air traffic volumes grew in March 2016.

Travel Alberta continued to support industry and engaged travellers in a variety of ways including:

  • Launched a new website to increase connection to travellers worldwide. Learn more…
  • The provincial budget reinforced tourism’s importance to a strong, diversified economy. Learn more…
  • New Travel Planners helped promote Alberta’s diverse tourism experiences. Learn more…
  • Global Ready – China program launched training to help business leaders and customer service staff learn about the motivations and expectations of Chinese travellers. Learn more…
  • Travel Alberta teamed up with Drumheller to host SHiFT. Learn more…

Other industry highlights from the spring months included the following:

  • Mighty Peace Fanatics, Calaway Park’s Timber Falls Campaign and Oldstobefest benefited from the Cooperative Marketing Program. Learn more…
  • Prairie Gardens Adventure Farm uses passion and partnership to create a successful business. Learn more…
  • Eau Claire Distillery brought a spirited story to life. Learn more…
  • Guest Ranch kept cooking up new products. They demonstrated a great way to stay involved in the community in which they do business. Learn more…
  • Creative Alberta Tourism Marketing recognized at 2016 ANVIL Awards Gala. Learn more…
  • Rendez-vous Canada 2016 connected Canadian sellers with international buyers. Learn more…
  • Philip J. Currie Museum won a national award. Learn more…
  • Glacier Skywalk won a Governor General’s Medal in architecture. Learn more…
  • Rockies Heli Canada earned a 2016 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence. Learn more…

Summer (July-September)

The third quarter started to look up as the Canadian government opened up seven additional visa application offices across China to help serve the growing number of Chinese tourists visiting Canada. China is the third largest international market for visitors to Canada after the U.S. and the U.K.

The summer also presented record highs for Alberta occupancy rates. In fact, July’s occupancy was at 93.1 per cent which is a 2.5 point increase over July 2015. The average daily room rate was $335.54 in July 2016, which is 15.5 per cent higher than the same month in 2015. This July occupancy rate and average daily room rate was the highest since 2015, when Alberta Culture and Tourism began recording accommodation indices for the Alberta Resorts region, which include the resort communities of Banff, Lake Louise, Kananaskis, Canmore and Jasper.

More good news continued as the Calgary International Airport edged upward in July 2016. The airport recorded approximately 1.6 million arrivals and departure in July 2016. This is an increase of almost 40,000 (2.6 per cent) arrivals and departures over July 2015.

Travel Alberta remained active in a variety of initiatives, including the following:

  • Travel Alberta Strategies Leverage New Beijing-Calgary Flight. Learn more…
  • CEO Royce Chwin launched a new Tourism Works blog to share timely and relevant information related to the business of tourism in Alberta and beyond. Learn more…
  • Canada’s West Marketplace Scholarship program became a sound investment in Alberta’s tourism future. Learn more…
  • Global Consumer Marketing team leveraged Pokémon Go to help Albertans explore the province. Learn more…
  • The Cooperative Marketing Investment Program exceeded expectations. Learn more…
  • Travel Alberta was named one of Alberta’s most innovative organizations. Learn more…

Other industry highlights from summer included the following:

  • Wildlife Park flourishes on hard work and exceptional customer service. Learn more…
  • Local Segway tours ride wave of popularity. Learn more…
  • Aspen Crossing illustrated time and time again the rewards of risk taking. Learn more…
  • Grand Rapids Adventures share their “piece of paradise.” Learn more…
  • Hotelier Jim Muir was named Alberta’s 2016 Alto Ambassador. Learn more...
  • Upgrades to Ghost Provincial Recreation areas were made to enhance recreation opportunities. Learn more…

Fall (October-December)

By November 2016, both ATB Financial and the Toronto Dominion Bank predicted a modest recovery for Alberta’s economy in 2017.

More good news as Banff was named to National Geographic Traveler’s Best of the World list for 2017, a highlight of 21 must-see places in the world. The City of Edmonton also received similar accolades from Canadian Geographic for one of the top Canadian cities to visit in winter.

Travel Alberta continues to mobilize Team Alberta; here are a few examples:

  • Proactively geared up for winter U.K. Learn more…
  • SHiFT, Travel Alberta’s experiential travel training program presented in Drumheller. Learn more…
  • 2016 Travel Alberta Industry Conference was a resounding success, with more than 600 industry partners from across Alberta coming together to network, learn and celebrate Alberta’s dynamic tourism industry. Learn more…
  • New ATIS Resource Hub launched – helping partners make the most of the ATIS platform. Learn more…
  • Travel Alberta worked with Team Alberta to showcase Alberta’s tourism product at Canada’s West Marketplace 2016. Learn more…
  • Travel Alberta’s Thriving partnership with KLM key to marketing efforts in the Netherlands. Learn more…

Other industry highlights from the final three months included the following:

  • Banff, Alberta Recognized as Best of the World Destination in 2017 by National Geographic Traveler. Learn more…
  • Reynolds-Alberta Museum turned motorcycle rides into a roaring success. Learn more…
  • New Executive Director hired for the Grande Prairie Regional Tourism association. Learn more…
  • Fort McMurray tourism rebuilds while many Albertans, and much of the world think Fort McMurray is all about the oil sands. Learn more…
  • The Banff Gondola won two top project awards. Learn more…
  • YYC welcomed Mexico City non-stop service. Learn more…

The importance of Alberta’s visitor economy can’t be underestimated. Tourism is an $8.3 billion industry, supporting 19,000 businesses and 127,000 jobs across Alberta.  

Overall international tourist arrivals grew by 4.4 per cent in 2015 to reach a total of 1,184 million.  Based on current trends, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) continues to project that international tourist arrivals will grow another 4 per cent by the end of 2016.

Through continuous efforts and initiatives, Travel Alberta will continue to mobilize Team Alberta in 2017 to grow the visitor economy to $10 billion by 2020.

Travel Alberta