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Grande Prairie gets inside look at state of Alberta’s tourism industry

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Travel Alberta is still a recovering industry, but Vice President of Strategy, Research and Communications Danielle Vlemmiks says she has learned a lot about the field itself since moving to Alberta in 2013.

“I really loved what the province had to offer, especially the warmth of the people. I grew up in Vancouver and that’s where I got my career in tourism started at Destination Canada. I’ve been with Travel Alberta for about five years now,” she says.

Speaking after a town hall in Grande Prairie, Vlemmiks says she feels that tourism is different from any other industry that she’s ever worked in.

“I think of it as an industry of storytelling. Tourism is all about people telling stories of their place, where they come from, their history, their land, and their opportunity. Being a part of that has been really special for me,” she says.

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2018 and 2019 were banner years for tourism in Alberta, according to Vlemmiks.

“International travel was at an all-time high, flights were more plentiful, and people were travelling around a lot. International business was really high, there were numerous international trade shows. There was really a societal shift with tourism not just here, but all over the world. Millennials and new generations are valuing commodities less and travel experiences more,” she explains.

“In Canada, we offer some of the most memorable and exciting experiences. Alberta specifically really capitalized on worldwide demand for that. By the end of 2019, Tourism was a $10 billion industry in Alberta alone.”

Vlemmiks mentioned in her presentation that the Travel Alberta team is focused on attracting more visitors from the United States specifically.

“Those are high-value travellers and we believe they will help grow our economy. Travellers spend different amounts. For example, an Albertan travelling within the province spends on average 240 dollars per visit per day, other travellers coming from different provinces to Alberta spent about 300 dollars per visit per day. Travellers from the United States spend about 600-900 dollars per visit per day,” she says.

Vlemmiks says that while natural attractions are what brings most visitors to the province, people visit for other reasons as well.

“It’s not just your stereotypical millions of bus tours to the Rocky Mountains. We may not see that kind of traffic for quite some time. What we have learned is that Albertans travelling within their own province grew in 2021 over 2019 levels. That also includes sport and culinary tourism,” she explains.

“I was just in Lethbridge for the Brier and it was fascinating to see all the different kinds of licence plates. We understand that we are mostly a fly-to destination, but people also like to drive here. I saw licence plates from all over Canada, and even some from the United States.”

Social media is a big part of the tourism industry in Alberta as well.

“Friends, family, and influencers that people trust are very important when it comes to attracting more people to the province. Travellers themselves are creating their own experiences. We learn from them as much as they learn from us. By learning about what went well on their trips, we can then pass on that feedback to our local business partners,” she adds.

Travel Alberta has two more Tourism Town Halls scheduled as they finish their tour in Drumheller on May 13th and Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo on May 19th.

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