Calgary on track to surpass last year's tally of 7.7 million visitors

Calgary should see another good year for tourism in 2019 after almost eight million visitors came here last year, says the head of the city’s marketing and development group.

Head of Tourism Calgary says hosting Grey Cup and expansion of BMO Centre will attract more visitors

So far in 2019, visits to Calgary are up 4.9 per cent over the previous year, Tourism Calgary says. (John Gibson/CBC)

Calgary should see another good year for tourism in 2019 after almost eight million visitors came here last year, says the head of the city's marketing and development group.

Travellers pumped $2 billion into the local economy in 2018, and so far this year visits are up 4.9 per cent, said Tourism Calgary CEO Cindy Ady.

She says that while travel hasn't recovered to pre-recession levels, leisure travel in Calgary is up.

"And we have great things like the country music awards coming to Calgary, as well as Grey Cup in November. And so, those kinds of events really do attract a lot of visitors, and add a lot to this economy," she said.

Tourism Calgary CEO Cindy Ady says the industry is more important than some people might realize, with one in 10 working Calgarians making their living from the hospitality sector. (CBC)

Statistics Canada says Calgary and its surrounding sights topped the Prairie provinces for tourism earnings during the last part of 2018.

Ady says the $500-million project to double the size of the BMO Centre on the Stampede Grounds, now underway, will also boost tourism in Calgary.

"This is going to be the second largest convention centre in the country," she said. "When you have facilities like that, you can attract differently than you would have in the past."

Harry Daley, the owner of Lazy Day Raft Rentals in Calgary, says he's already enjoying a good start to this season.

"We've noticed quite a few people coming by who happen to be in Calgary and want to go out and take advantage of what we have to offer, which is a nice float down the Bow River," he said.

"So we've had quite a few tourists already from the States and also from Europe."

Tourism Calgary says it's hoping to attract more Canadians to the city as well as overseas visitors. A recent survey indicated that 28 per cent of Canadians plan to visit in the next two years.

David Finch, a marketing professor at Mount Royal University, says tourism could become an even bigger part of the economy in the future.

"Most places in the world would kill for our natural assets," he said.

"Calgary's got a wonderful opportunity, and I think we're just scratching the surface in regards to growth opportunities."


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