Budget-wary Albertans are expected to embrace staycations this travelling season.
As oil prices continue to flounder at the $30 level and a lengthy parade of corporate cutbacks make the headlines, more summer travel plans will mean staying on home soil.
“People will, for sure, stay closer to home,” said Liz Taylor, Tourism Red Deer executive director.
National tourism groups have noticed an upswing in tourism at traditional big draws, such as the mountains and big cities like Vancouver.
Most of those visitors are Canadian, with a healthy segment of Europeans attracted to our affordable destinations.
Despite the weak Canadian dollar, which gives U.S. visitors a big boost in spending clout, the bread and butter for tourism providers are still Canadian visitors.
That’s not to say that national tourism organizations aren’t planning to ramp up their U.S. pitches, but the reality is only about 37 per cent of Americans have passports and their tendency is to stay closer to home.
“We will see more Canadians doing things (in Canada). Their travel patterns have changed,” said Taylor.
Previous tourism studies have shown a direct correlation between the strength of the Canadian dollar and our cross-border travel plans.
Spending patterns also change in a downturn. Travel may still be on the family itinerary but savings are often sought on food, accommodations or purchases.
“It suits us well because all of our accommodation is really reasonable. Even last summer, all of the attractions were strong, people were out doing things.”
Taylor said Red Deer and District Museum and Art Gallery saw a modest family rate deal pay off with solid crowds on Family Day.
Tourism industry recommend that those looking to book campgrounds or other accommodations in the popular areas to not wait because a busy season is expected.
Central Alberta communities recognize the potential to boost tourism in the area.
A $100,000 Central Alberta Destination Management Plan was recently completed and is being presented to the 11 participating municipalities to be adopted as part of their economic development and planning strategies.
“One of the things that shocked everybody was the number of trails (in Central Alberta). We have over 2,900 kms of trails,” she said.
Besides developing a brand identity for the region’s tourism, practical tools to encourage tourism, such as trail maps identifying staging areas and washrooms, are being pursued.
Marie Péron, executive director of Lacombe Regional Tourism, agrees that the trend to Albertans travelling closer to home was on a noticeable upswing last year.
“There was a huge increase in tourism at the attractions in the region and we suspect that will grow again this year,” said Péron.
For many Albertans, a staycation means camping so she recommends not to wait to the last minute.
“I would encourage people, to start making their travel plans and to start earlier because it’s going to be a busier summer than it ever has been.”
Péron and other tourism boosters believe the recently completed study has come at an opportune time to maintain the momentum building now.