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Ottawa pledges $5M to attract Stampede tourists

Canada's most famous rodeo could be roping in even more foreign tourists next year, as long as they're gunning to live large - and spend big - in Stampede city. The federal government pledged $5 million in Tuesday's budget to round up affluent international tourists to attend the Calgary Stampede's 100th anniversary in 2012 - one of the few new promises made to Alberta in the 352-page document according to a recent article by Laura Stone in the Calgary Herald on March 23.

If the budget passes, the money goes to the Canadian Tourism Commission, a national marketing agency that recruits "high-spending" visitors from around the world. "We're looking for people who come and who stay in hotels, who take planes . . . who enjoy fine dining and restaurants and really, really spend some money," said CTC spokeswoman Margaret Nevin. In other words, that's a lot of pancakes. Nevin said the commission targets 11 markets for their campaigns to visit Canada: the United States, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, South Korea, Japan, China, India and Brazil. The commission uses print and online media, including social media, to market Canada -including Stampede -to international travellers, said Nevin.

Details about the centennial celebration are yet to be announced but Stampede spokesman Doug Fraser said it's going to be "a magnificent celebration," adding he's delighted by the federal investment. "Anytime we can attract visitors from around the world, we're getting our message out about our western heritage and values, and quite frankly, we're thrilled to be able to do that," said Fraser.

The Stampede drew over 1.1 million people last year, including visitors from 60 countries. Still, the wild weather and six horse deaths contributed to about 41,000 fewer revellers than in 2009. The budget also included $5 million toward the 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup, which takes place in Toronto in 2012 as well. That money will pay for "pre-anniversary commemorations and festivals" across Canada.

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