Edmonton

Tourism drop 'devastating' for Jasper businesses, town councillor says

Businesses in Jasper are hurting as the national park remains closed to tourists during the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘No one has seen anything like this before in terms of how quiet and isolated we are’

Business owners in Jasper National Park say the town is struggling with the economic ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic as tourists stay home and many stores remain closed. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

Businesses in Jasper are hurting as the national park remains closed to tourists during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At a town council meeting Tuesday, Jasper Tourism president and CEO James Jackson said the outbreak could not have come at a worse time.

Local businesses typically deplete their resources over the winter, but rebound once tourists start filling the mountain town again.

More than two million people visited the park in the 2018–2019 fiscal year.

Town councillor Jenna McGrath told CBC's Radio Active the pandemic and related drop in tourism has been devastating for local businesses.

"No one has seen anything like this before in terms of how quiet and isolated we are here," she said.

Mountain towns across Alberta rely heavily on summer tourism to survive.... we'll talk to two business owners about the economic shutdown in Banff and Jasper. 8:38

McGrath runs multiple businesses in town, including Fleur, a cannabis boutique, and Jasper Wellness, a yoga and massage studio.

She has started offering online yoga through Zoom and reopened Fleur, which was deemed an essential service.

Business owners say they are grateful for local traffic, but that may not be enough to sustain some companies through the pandemic.

"Unemployment is astronomical here," said Doug Albert, managing partner of Jasper Source for Sports.

Half of the sports store's staff were laid off, he said, though bike mechanics and managers have kept working.

Kimberley Stark, who owns the Bear's Paw Bakery and the Other Paw Bakery, said crews working on the Trans Mountain pipeline have been crucial to keeping her bakeries alive.

"If we didn't have them, there would be no reason to keep the doors open," she told CBC's Edmonton AM.

Spokesperson Steve Young said Parks Canada staff still have work to do.

"We still need to look after wildlife, we still need to look after transportation corridors," he said.

"The management of a park on a daily basis continues, even without the visitor services."