Tourism industry healthy despite decline in ’10

The number of people visiting tourism Red Deer’s information centre during 2010 has fallen back to normal levels after a record year in 2009, says its executive director.

The number of people visiting tourism Red Deer’s information centre during 2010 has fallen back to normal levels after a record year in 2009, says its executive director.

Darren Kuz is citing bad weather and a weakened economy as principal factors affecting the number of people who stopped at the centre located next to Heritage Ranch alongside Hwy 2.

The 2010 total reached only 67,995, compared with 77,749 in 2009 and 74,637 in 2008, Kuz said in a statement released on Friday.

“It was a very wet summer that did not encourage visitors to come and explore Red Deer and area,” he said.

But Kuz said some local events did set new numbers and he believes tourism remains healthy overall throughout the region.

Catherine Neale Ward, tourism planning consultant for Lacombe Regional Tourism, said the numbers for 2010 were actually up at the three visitor centres in her region, including the Flatiron Building, Michener House Museum and the Lacombe Chamber of Commerce visitor centre on Hwy 12 at the west side of the city.

Part of the reason may be that the Lacombe group is keeping a closer watch on statistics than it had in the past, although it does not gather as much data as Tourism Red Deer, said Ward.

She also believes there has been an increase in the number of people who are vacationing closer to home to save money.

Lacombe sees large numbers of people from Calgary and Edmonton who stop in on day trips and there are many people in the region looking for things to do with family and friends who have come to visit, said Ward.

The Lacombe group has just completed a survey that indicates, while there is plenty to do at area lakes in the summer, Lacombe lacks winter attractions.

Meetings are planned in the coming weeks to address the issue, including the exploring the possibility of a winter festival to be held in conjunction with the annual cutter parade set for Saturday, Feb. 12.

Plans are also being set to beef up agri-tourism opportunities, including development of the Amazing Country Race, a self-guided tour similar to Red Deer-based Country Drive.

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com