Travel Alberta, UCP hope to double provincial tourism revenue by 2030

Some agencies may be concerned about sector revenue after provincial budget cuts, but Travel Alberta doesn’t appear to be one of them. Its president has announced the government plans to help the industry double its revenue over the next decade.

Pursuing big increase from 2017, when tourists spent record $8.9 billion in Alberta

Travel Alberta CEO Royce Chwin addresses attendees at the 20th annual Travel Alberta Industry Conference in Banff on Monday. (Dave Gilson/CBC News )

Some agencies may be concerned about sector revenue after provincial budget cuts, but Travel Alberta doesn't appear to be one of them. Its president has announced the government plans to help the industry double its revenue over the next decade.

CEO Royce Chwin told nearly 600 attendees at the 20th annual Travel Alberta Industry Conference in Banff that tourism remains a key economic driver in the province, and the UCP wants it to grow to see returns of $20 billion. 

It would be a dramatic increase from 2017, when tourists in Alberta spent $8.9 billion — which was a record in itself, and up five per cent from the previous year.

Travel Alberta will presumably also have to overcome the challenges presented by the reduction of the operating budget for the province's trade and tourism ministry. It was cut from $349 million in 2018-19 to $286 million for 2019-20.

But to achieve the $20-billion goal, Chwin said the industry will need to broaden its thinking and maintain an inclusive approach to business.

"Fostering positive working relationships with other industries, communities and businesses is central to our ability to grow Alberta's visitor economy," he said Monday. 

Chwin told CBC News that meeting the target will involve fostering three aspects of business: policy, destination development and drawing international visitors.

Essentially, Chwin said, it's about finding a strategy to make the province "rally together to share the Alberta story, to invite visitors both near and far, to experience what Alberta has to offer," he said.

New lobby group formed

Heritage Park CEO Alida Visbach is one of the leaders behind a new association she says will advocate for the tourism industry. (Dave Gilson/CBC News)

A new initiative has resulted in the creation of the Tourism Industry Association of Alberta, which will advocate and lobby for the travel sector. 

Alida Visbach is the president of Calgary's Heritage Park, and one of the new association's five signatories. She says that from lodging to accommodation to retail, the association will bring a "broad sectoral representation" to the table.

"We hope to have a cohesive group together that will work with government in an advocacy role to help create policy," Visbach said.

"We talk about the 'Alberta advantage.' To us, the Alberta advantage is tourism, and we need to put some might and effort behind those words."

Tourism creates jobs, UCP says

In a press release, the Alberta government says it is developing a "bold vision" for a "strong tourism industry that creates jobs."

"We're going to be developing a 10-year tourism strategy and are creating the right conditions for Alberta's tourism businesses to thrive," said Tanya Fir, minister of economic development, trade and tourism. 

"We have the lowest taxes on job creators in Canada and are cutting red tape across the economy. We're excited about the potential for growth in tourism across Alberta."

However, the UCP has withdrawn funding for other travel-related projects in the province. 

The X Games were slated to be hosted in Calgary beginning in 2020 — and projected to generate $75 million in revenue — but the government's budget revealed it would no longer be investing in the project. 

In regards to the cuts and Alberta tourism, Visbach says it does present a challenge for the industry, but working together is the way forward.

"The way to achieve this audacious goal, which is the $20 billion by 2030, is if we all work together and industry works very closely, hand-in-hand with Travel Alberta and all of government," Visbach said.

With files from Dave Gilson