WestJet is helping to restore access to Alberta for travellers from across the globe with last week’s launch of its new route between Calgary and Amsterdam.
“Air travel will play a pivotal role in Alberta’s post pandemic economic recovery,” said Rajan Sawhney, Alberta’s Minister of Transport, ahead of the inaugural flight on August 5, 2021.
Alberta ranks as the fourth largest visitor economy in Canada behind Ontario, B.C., and Quebec, but unlike these markets – which all benefit from being within driving distance of millions of American travellers – Alberta relies heavily on key air routes to bring travellers to our province.
Prior to the pandemic, Alberta had air service to 31 destinations in Canada, 24 in the U.S., and 25 internationally, ranking second in the country in domestic and transborder seats per capita, and fourth internationally. In 2019, Alberta received 540,000 visitors from Europe equating to $553M in tourism expenditures.
The tourism industry saw unprecedented losses due to the pandemic, including business closures and rising unemployment. According to Destination Canada, the impact on tourism is greater than that experienced after 9/11, SARS and the 2008 economic crisis combined.
Here in Alberta, tourism expenditures are expected to fall to $4.9 billion for 2020 (down 48% from 2019), with direct job losses estimated at 23,000, or 30 per cent. As travel resumes, tourism will be an important part of the province’s economic recovery and future growth.
Travel Alberta has identified air access as a key factor in tourism’s recovery, committing to working with airline and airport partners to re-establish and build Alberta’s air links. With two international airports, and as home to WestJet, Swoop and Flair, Alberta has an opportunity to build a collaborative strategy to recover and grow this traffic through the planning of new routes and supportive programs.