More family visits leading spike in local tourism

By Sheldon Spackman
April 6, 2018 - 10:40am

Red Deer was among many communities and regions across the province to see increased tourism in 2016.

This week, the province’s Culture and Tourism department released data from Statistics Canada showing tourism spending in Alberta totalled $8.5 billion in 2016, an increase of 4.7 per cent over 2015, with almost 35 million visits made to the province, an over two per cent increase from 2015.

Tourism Red Deer Executive Director Liz Taylor says that growth continued in 2017 as well, thanks in large part to great summer weather.

“I think all of the long weekends were in pretty good shape last year,” recalls Taylor. “The Canada 150 celebrations, there were a lot of activities. We’re starting to see a lot of the small meetings come back into Red Deer and of course with the news of the Canadian Finals Rodeo and the Canada Winter Games, things are really starting to become busier in Red Deer.”

Taylor says one pleasant surprise has been the number of families visiting Red Deer.

“We get a lot of people where they’re coming from Edmonton and Calgary, and it might be a mom and car load of kids and they’re doing the things that Red Deerians do,” she explains. “Going to the playgrounds and the parks and the trails and that sort of thing, but they’re making a weekend out of it or a mid-week break. So we’re continuing to see the shorter trips closer to home and then just getting out and being with the families.”

Taylor feels Red Deer is a reasonably priced destination for residents from Edmonton and Calgary, its largest visitor markets and offers lots of ‘things to do’ for those who choose to come here.

“Something that’s really growing in Red Deer right now is the quality of the restaurants,” states Taylor. “We’re really starting to become known as a place to go to eat.”

Attractions like the Kerry Wood Nature Centre with its new exhibits, the Museum and Art Gallery, Sports Hall of Fame and their changing exhibits and the programs that go along with them, are also major reasons why Taylor says more people are visiting the city and surrounding area.

With an economic impact of roughly $257 million from tourism each year to the local economy, Taylor anticipates that number to grow once again in 2018.

“The Canadian Finals Rodeo, there’s a lot of organizations getting ready to participate in that,” says Taylor. “In a lot of people’s minds, 2019 is the Canada Winter Games but really that’s the first quarter of 2019, so I think we’re seeing a lot of activity in a lot of the test events and just general activity leading up to them, so it really does hit us in 2018.”

From a regional perspective, Jennifer Hartigh, Chair of the Central Alberta Tourism Alliance, describes 2017 as also being a strong year for tourism in the area as a whole.

“We received the most visits from people that are actually from within our province and from within Canada, so we do see less international visitors than say our national parks do,” adds Hartigh. “So certainly I think that the economy has had some impact on the tourism that we’re seeing. People are choosing to stay and explore areas of the province that they maybe aren’t as familiar with, instead of going to some of the further away destinations.”

With that in mind, Hartigh says the Central Alberta Tourism Alliance is now trying to help its tourism operators and entrepreneurs with product development.

“Recognizing that our region is an attractive place for visitors and tourists, we want to see more activities for them to do when they come here. They’re coming to enjoy themselves, they certainly do that but also if they can have more of an economic impact in that they are spending more money while they’re here, that would bring about benefits to municipalities and businesses in the area.”

Red Deer 2018 home starts falling behind 2017

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