Economic downturn hits Calgary Stampede hotspot Ranchman's Cookhouse

As Calgary recovers from the low price of oil, a Stampede hotspot says they've seen a significant drop in company bookings.

Ranchman's owner says it's the first time in 19 years the venue hasn't sold out

In previous years, Ranchman has had to hire 300 new staff just for the Stampede.

The Calgary Stampede is usually a boon for local businesses, but this year some entrepreneurs say they're feeling the effects of the economic downturn.

"Last year [the big companies] didn't have the big layoffs," said Harris Dvorkin, who owns Ranchman's Cookhouse and Dancehall, one of the city's Stampede mainstays. 

"It was tough and they were cutting back ... but not like this."

Aside from the usual Western-themed revelry, the bar hosts bull riding events leading up to the 10-day Stampede and rents out tents to companies for Stampede-related events. 

He says this is the first time in 19 years those events aren't sold out.

Dvorkin says between fewer corporate bookings and advanced ticket sales, he's hoping for a huge influx of last-minute tourists — for him and for other businesses.

"It sure would be nice to have another 50,000 people show up, or whatever it will take."

More tourists

Stampede spokesperson Jennifer Booth says they expect about the same turnout as last year. While most attendees are usually from the Calgary area, she says they expect more tourists at this year's event.

The 2016 Calgary Stampede runs from July 8 to 17. (@calgarystampede/Twitter)

"Canada has typically been a fairly expensive destination to go to and we're essentially on sale right now so we hope to see some tourism dollars come our way," says Booth. 

"The Stampede has always been on people's bucket lists, so it's a destination. And I know people are quite eager and it's fairly well known around the world."

At Hotel Arts, sales director Fraser Abbott says he's pleasantly surprised with their Stampede bookings, though they haven't grown.

"Hotel Arts is performing about the same as last year which, really, in this market, is something to be really excited about," says Abbott.

"I'm not sure if the rest of our hotel community is faring, but we're really, really pleased with how we're pacing for this year's Stampede."