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Tourism in Alberta: Year in Review

Tourism works for Alberta, and 2015 has proven to be a strong year for the province’s visitor economy. 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)

Overall, 2015 began with mixed signals for Alberta’s tourism industry. Low energy prices continued from 2014. Unseasonably warm weather impacted attendance at the ski resorts with 2.3 million total skier visits ultimately occurring in 2014-2015, down slightly from 2.5 million the previous year. Attendance at the three national parks rose in early 2015, with Banff welcoming 577,300 visitors through the end of March, an increase of 11.1% from the previous year.

Occupancy rates in the major cities declined slightly in early 2015, but improved significantly in Alberta’s resort areas.

Travel Alberta supported industry and engaged travellers in a variety of ways, including

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

Spring (April-June)

Leading into summer, the second quarter saw strong tourism growth, particularly in the national parks. Banff and Jasper both reported double-digit increases in attendance. Meanwhile, Waterton Lakes National Park reported a remarkable 25% growth in visitation for the first half of 2015.

Both Calgary and Edmonton’s tourism industries continued to be impacted by the current economic climate. According to Tourism Calgary, for example, the number of hotel rooms sold in Calgary was down 2.8% through June.

At Travel Alberta, we were active in a variety of initiatives, including

Other industry-related highlights from the second quarter included the following:

  • The Right Honourable Rachel Notley became the 17th Premier of Alberta, appointing David Eggen as Minister of Culture and Tourism

Summer (July-September)

A favourable exchange rate, growing U.S. economy and Travel Alberta’s global marketing strategy helped attract visitors this summer, resulting in a record season for many operators. Banff, Jasper and Waterton all experienced strong summers, with double-digit growth.

They weren’t alone. Royal Tyrrell Museum reported a 12.1% increase in visitation over last year, while the Canadian Badlands region reported significant increases for almost all major tourism attractions. Alberta’s museums and historic sights also reported a 23.7% increase in September visitation compared to last year.

During the first nine months of 2015, more than 12.8 million passengers passed through Calgary International Airport, a 2.1% increase compared to the same period in 2014. Edmonton International Airport also reported a 1.8% increase from the previous year.

More than 151,600 campsite reservations were booked in 2015, a 14% increase from last year. Also, Alberta’s restaurant sales hit a record in August.

Travel Alberta was active in variety of initiatives, including

Here are a few other highlights:

Fall (October-December)

Data is not yet available for the last quarter of 2015, but the trends driving the summer success appear, at this time, likely to continue.

Many winter experience operators, including ski resorts and others, are reporting strong bookings earlier than usual based on sales at the same time last year. The winter weather is forecast to be cooler than last year’s warm temperatures and November saw strong snowfall throughout the province.

At Travel Alberta, we’ve been helping mobilize Team Alberta by

  • Working collaboratively with Destination Canada on U.S. re-entry efforts
  • Working collaboratively with the Alberta Hotel and Lodging Association to drive direct accommodations lead referrals
  • Helping Alberta operators tap into the lucrative Asia market
  • Celebrating excellence in tourism via the 2015 Alto Awards
  • Promoting professional development at our annual conference
  • Releasing the 2014 Annual Report “Together We’re Growing Tourism in Alberta
  • Helping connect Alberta tourism suppliers with global tourism buyers at Canada’s West Marketplace, including assisting 14 Alberta Operators with a scholarship to attend

Around the industry, highlights from the past months included

Many other highlights occurred throughout 2015. Tourism continues to demonstrate that it is a strong economic driver for our province. The industry generates $8 billion in tourism revenues and supports more than 127,000 jobs across the province, proof that tourism works for Alberta.

 

Travel Alberta