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Alberta's Visitor Economy



Tourism is a central player in Alberta’s economy. Its importance to the province’s well-being is especially critical during periods of volatility within the energy sector. Indeed, Alberta’s “visitor economy” holds great promise as a core pillar of economic diversification now and in the future.

One of the fastest growing and most resilient sectors in the world, tourism is a key economic driver in Alberta. It’s an $8 billion industry that supports 19,000 businesses and employs more than 127,000 people across the province. Alberta’s goal under the Tourism Framework is to grow tourism revenue to $10 billion by 2020.

The full impact of the visitor economy is felt when the multiplier effect of tourist spending ripples throughout our whole economy, supporting job creation, infrastructure development and community building.

The bottom line: Tourism works for Alberta.

What is the visitor economy?

The visitor economy refers to the widespread and often unseen benefits to Alberta by dollars spent by travellers. Tourism is more than just a business sector; it’s an economic driver that crosses multiple industries and supports growth in myriad ways.

Here’s an illustration:

A family from California comes to the Canadian Rockies to ski. They take a flight, rent a car, stay in a lodge and rent snowboards. This is the “direct” impact of the visitor economy: local businesses receive money from tourism spending.

Because of this spending, the snowboard rental business is able to make a profit and hire more staff. This “indirect” impact of tourism spending becomes an economic driver, supporting wages, salaries, profits and other business costs. Also, as more visitors come to the ski resort, more work is generated in the supply chain, as wholesalers, food and beverage suppliers, convention planners, retailers, manufacturers, etc., are called upon to meet customers’ demands.

The new employee hired by the snowboard rental company now has money to spend on clothes, food, transportation, etc., and to pay taxes. This is the “induced” impact of the visitor economy.

The ripple or spillover effects of this induced impact is felt as income and taxes are spent throughout the province on housing, education, transportation, infrastructure, energy, communication, heath care and other personal costs.

The end result is that tourism dollars circulate throughout the economy, amplifying their impact along the way, and resulting in support for community building and economic well-being. The whole province benefits.

By the numbers

The importance of Alberta’s visitor economy can’t be underestimated. In fact, the growth of tourism as a leading economic player is part of a global trend. Consider:

  • Travel and tourism now makes up approximately 10 per cent of the world’s GDP
  • Travel and tourism accounts for about 10 per cent of all employment in the world
  • Tourism contributed $2.9 billion in GDP to Alberta in 2013
  • Total tax revenue from Alberta tourism was $4 billion in 2013
  • Total direct, indirect and induced economic impact of visitor spending in Alberta was $9.2 billion in 2013

Diversification of the economy

While other economic sectors in Alberta rise and fall with oil and gas prices, tourism is not as vulnerable to these trends.

A low Canadian dollar, coupled with lower transportation and fuel costs, can attract more international (particularly U.S.) travellers, who previously saw Canada as an expensive destination. A lower dollar may encourage Albertans to stick closer to home and explore destinations throughout the province.

Travel Alberta is ensuring the Alberta message is in the right market, targeting the right customer, at the right time. The flexibility the tourism sector has to leverage all economic cycles is a key reason why the visitor economy is so important to Alberta’s future.

What does the future hold?

As Alberta works towards greater economic diversification and less reliance on the volatile energy sector, tourism presents huge opportunity and economic benefit.

At a global level, the travel and tourism industry outperformed growth in the majority of leading sectors in 2014 – including automotive, public services, retail, and financial services – according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Alberta is in a prime position to elevate the importance of tourism as a core pillar of economic diversification. For Travel Alberta, it means finding the right balance of near and far marketing to inspire Albertans to explore their province and to drive incremental revenue to the province from outside visitors.

Alberta’s advantage is our simple, consistent and compelling brand message aimed directly at the heart of target travellers. Through a Team Alberta approach, the tourism industry is poised to continue to grow the visitor economy and play a leading role in ensuring a prosperous Alberta today and tomorrow.