Alberta tourism industry inspired to get aggressive by B.C., low dollar

Alberta is taking a page out of B.C.'s tourism initiatives and ability to turn 'lemons into lemonade.'

Alberta Tourism minister impressed by British Columbia's aggressive tourism strategy

Alberta's Tourism minister wants to open up more backcountry for snowmobiling - like this freestyle competition rider - and other snow and river sports to be more aggressive about marketing the province's wild treasures. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

​A low Canadian dollar has opened a window of travel opportunity that Alberta plans to take full advantage of, says Tourism Minister David Eggen who also wants to adopt B.C. tourism initiatives for his province.

 "A lot of people have it as part of their bucket list. We just want to kind of expand on that."- Alberta Tourism Minister David Eggen

Eggen says the province will do that by expanding travel opportunities beyond the traditional powerhouse attractions of Banff and Jasper.

"We've seen over the last couple of years record revenues and crowds into the mountain parks," he said in a year-end interview. "A lot of people have it as part of their bucket list. We just want to kind of expand on that."

More snowmobiling

"We need to be more aggressive and have more partnerships with the tourist industry."

Expansion and partnering are the pillars of a seven-year plan, launched in 2013 under the former Progressive Conservative government, to grow tourism revenue by one-third to $10.3 billion.

This undated photo provided by Mount Norquay shows a snowboarder on the mountain in the Canadian Rockies, just 15 minutes from the town of Banff, Alberta. (Paul Zizka/The Associated Press)

Eggen said the heavy lifting will still be done by skiers, hikers, kayakers, sightseers and other visitors who stream into Banff and Jasper. He also wants to open up more areas for snowmobiling.

But new frontiers are opening up such as the Castle Wilderness region in Alberta's southwest corner. In September, the province announced two parks in the region — one for camping, the second for back-country pursuits.​

Pomeroy Lodging LP committed this fall to a $26-million upgrade of the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis.

B.C. turns "lemons into lemonade."

Alberta also is looking to secure more direct flights from Asia and is trying to bring in more visitors from U.S. destinations in Texas and southern California, who can already get to Alberta in one airplane ride.

Eggen said he is impressed by British Columbia's aggressive tourism strategy. Sitting in a restaurant in Pincher Creek recently, he said he spied a rack of tourism pamphlets — all for destinations in B.C.

The province excels at turning "lemons into lemonade," he said. One example is how the former Kettle Valley railway was transformed into a scenic, high-altitude mountain bike adventure.

A view of Two Jack Lake in Banff National Park. (Travel Alberta/Canadian Press)

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