Tourism expected to improve in ’11

Alberta tourism operators are expecting an upswing in tourism in 2011 after wet weather and the economy caused a flat year in much of the sector.

Alberta tourism operators are expecting an upswing in tourism in 2011 after wet weather and the economy caused a flat year in much of the sector.

Jon Mamela, vice-president of marketing with Travel Alberta, said it’s tough for people to be adventurous in the outdoors when rain is falling.

Environment Canada statistics showed that the Red Deer region was hit with 345 mm of rain in the June-to-August period, compared with a normal average of 241 mm.

Mamela said there was little or no growth in tourism traffic from 2009 to 2010, but he expects tourism numbers to improve in 2011 because the economy is looking up.

Mamela was in Red Deer to share strategy and marketing ideas at the Black Knight Inn with 40 to 50 tourism operators and hoteliers.

He encouraged them to give people more of those “goose bump” moments, something he said is different for everyone.

“It’s that vacation moment that lives long beyond the photograph.

“It really is that combination of the authentic beauty we have in Alberta, the hospitality we provide to our guests and to visitors, and also it’s people finding their own individual point and time, or that moment that comes over them of feeling it is so special to be here right now and that moment is etched in their mind,” Mamela said.

Tourism Red Deer executive director Darren Kuz acknowledged there were challenges this year.

“It was one of our worst summers ever on that front. I think the economy still played a factor. Some events did really well. Westerner Days hit a new record, so it was kind of mixed reviews.”

Kuz said Red Deer is positioned well for 2011 because when disposable incomes go up, people will take those two- or three-day vacations.

“I think we are rebounding to a certain degree and the work we are doing locally and with Travel Alberta campaigns, we are optimistic about 2011,” he said.

Tourism Red Deer is awaiting a final report on the Tourism Economic Impact Study. Kuz said the study, expected to be completed by the end of the year, will have specific numbers for Red Deer and area and indicate where the markets are.

“There is a good portion of the workforce that is directly employed by the tourism industry,” Kuz said. “So it will be really interesting to share those numbers with our stakeholders, partners and the general public so they realize how important the tourism industry is to our local economy.”

sobrien@bprda.wpengine.com