Banff sets attendance record despite Canada 150 tourist deluge failing to materialize

Banff National Park has seen a record number of visitors so far this year, but it’s still a far cry from the crush of tourists that was predicted to descend on the park with their free Canada 150 passes.

Attendance from April to September rose 4% over same period last year

Banff has been busy this year, but only about four per cent busier than last year. (CBC)

Banff National Park has seen a record number of visitors so far this year, but it's still a far cry from the crush of tourists that was predicted to descend on the park with Canada 150 free admission.

The park had 2,813,097 visitors from April to September. That's a four per cent increase over the same period in 2016, but it's actually in line with upticks seen over the past several years, according to Parks Canada.

"This is a continuation of that increase," visitor experience manager Greg Danchuk told the Calgary Eyeopener.

He says it was important to Parks Canada that things went smoothly for visitors during Canada's sesquicentennial, and he feels the free park pass initiative has been a success.

"Parks Canada put a lot of work into the planning and preparation for this to be ready for that," he said. "And we've received very high satisfaction rates from visitors across the country."

Danchuk says visits to Banff were up 10 per cent in April, and six per cent in both May and June, but there were only small bumps for July and August. 

Parks Canada worked hard to convince potential visitors to consider coming in the shoulder seasons, and Danchuk says that message seems to have gotten through. 

Limited accommodation

Danchuk says he's not surprised by the numbers. 

"Both our own camping accommodations in the park and the accommodations in the town of Banff and Lake Louise are pretty full during the summer months anyway," he said.

"So the opportunity for increases were really through that day use, and people coming from the Calgary area are, for the most part, two and three hours away."

Danchuk says he is not expecting any significant increases once ski season starts.

Parks Canada uses car counters at various locations in the parks to gauge the number of vehicles that enter. Figures are then corrected for the average number of people in a vehicle and through-traffic, local and commercial traffic is eliminated. 

Same day re-entries and re-entries by visitors remaining in the parks overnight are also excluded from the totals to establish an accurate estimated number of visitors.