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With tourism operators continuing to feel the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic 14 months later, many businesses around the province are showing extraordinary innovation and tenacity not only to survive, but to set themselves up for a successful future.

Such is the case for Calgary Harley-Davidson, which shifted its focus to serve Albertans and Canadians when borders closed and as health restrictions allow.

Pre-pandemic, the company offered a unique rental experience to both Albertans and riders from around the world, providing tour suggestions with routes around Alberta. In 2019, they had customers from 20 different countries. But with cancelled reservations and international tour group bookings last year, Marion Redpath, rentals manager, considered the opportunity in front of her.

“We had visitors during the pandemic from other provinces that had never been here before,” she said. “They were in awe and amazement at our beautiful province, and promised they wanted to come back. We have an opportunity here to build relationships with our fellow Canadians through our tourism efforts.”

In the summer of 2020, Calgary Harley-Davidson developed an idea to support small businesses and local charities that were hurting because of the pandemic. The Rally in the Rockies was a nine-day motorcycle event that took riders from the Canadian Badlands to the Icefields Parkway and beyond.

It was a memorable experience that helped get people out riding safely, while ensuring the health and safety of employees and riders. 

With Alberta having the highest number of motorcyclists per capita in Canada, Redpath said the marketing focus during the pandemic has been to target Albertans first, then concentrate on the rest of Canada when it is safe to do so.

“We’re hoping to capture that crowd that would have otherwise left for the U.S,” said Redpath.

Still, she is hopeful that visitors will return when it is safe to do so.

“We [want to encourage riders] to explore the roads, stop at little restaurants and small inns in communities around Alberta,” she said.

Check out Redpath’s thoughts on the value of Alberta tourism, connecting with new customers and the importance of partnerships and supporting local communities below.

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