Travel Alberta is helping out Tourism Red Deer with $60,000 in funding.
With the ongoing pandemic, tourism has been hit hard in the province.
Chris Heseltine, acting CEO of Travel Alberta, said Red Deer and the central Alberta region is an important tourism market for the province. He said the local tourism agency is to receive the sum under an operational relief program to help during the ongoing pandemic.
“(Red Deer) generates significant revenue in terms of hotel space and spending. A large part of that is business travel. Another large part of it is visiting friends and relatives,” explained Heseltine.
Tourism Red Deer is one of several tourism agencies to receive funding from the province through the operational relief program. Others include Tourism Calgary, Edmonton Tourism, Banff and Lake Louise Tourism and Tourism Jasper.
Travel Alberta recently announced it’s investing $17 million to help restart Alberta’s tourism industry through various programs.
Nestled between Edmonton and Calgary, cities with international airports, Red Deer is ideally located for tourism, with access to more than three million people around it, said Heseltine.
It’s also a gateway to places such as Sylvan Lake, Rocky Mountain House, Nordegg and the whole David Thompson region.
“That’s enormous opportunity and enormous potential,” he said, adding he wants to see the region’s economy grow.
“We want to see diversification, we want to see people moving around the province. Particularly those across Canada, and internationally, are drawn to Alberta because of the Rockies, and we want to leverage that and try and spread people around and expose them to other areas.”
A portion of the funding that helps local tourism boards such as Tourism Red Deer comes from visitors – for instance, guests staying at hotels.
“It’s a percentage of the room rate, which is paid into the fund, which then goes to support the local destination marketing organizations (like Tourism Red Deer),” he said, adding it’s a common practice throughout North America.
With fewer people staying at hotels, and the tourism industry suffering amid COVID-19, organizations such as Tourism Red Deer can use temporary relief to help with their everyday costs, such as rent and utilities, Heseltine said.
A Destination Canada report on the impact of reduced international and domestic travel in April estimated a loss of $36 billion in tourism spending across the country. Alberta was forecasted to suffer a $4.5-billion loss – a 50 per cent decrease in tourism spending from 2017 levels, including a $1-billion loss from U.S. and overseas markets.
While international visitors accounted for only five per cent of arrivals to Alberta, they contributed 24 per cent of tourism expenditures, a 2017 survey by Statistics Canada states.
Tourism Red Deer’s virtual annual general meeting is Thursday.