Alberta tourism expects bumper year on the rise of ‘staycations’

CALGARY — National parks in Alberta saw an increase in visitors last year and another strong tourism season is expected this year.

According to the Alberta Tourism Market Monitor, the low Canadian dollar, healthy U.S. economy and more Albertans staying close to home contributed to an 8.1 per cent rise in visitors last summer over the previous year.

Hotels, restaurants and retail shops in Banff and Jasper are starting to hire staff.

Meanwhile, officials with the hospitality and tourism program at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology are hosting an expo to help students find jobs.

Instructor Ken Upton says not only is there an influx of Americans, but also tourists from China, Korea and Japan.

Stacey Fisher from Discover Banff Tours says some of their American customers don’t even realize that their dollar stands up so well in comparison to the Canadian dollar.

“Once they find out that then it’s just a bonus for them and they’re loving it,” Fisher said.

Officials at the Fairmont Palliser hotel in downtown Calgary say visitors stop in the city before heading to the mountain parks and they see opportunity in the economic downturn.

“Business travel is down but that has created opportunities for travel in the leisure, group or tour markets,” said Janet Jacques of the Fairmont Palliser. “Staycations are also proving to be extremely popular as Canadians are sticking closer to home instead of going south.”

Officials with the hotel chain say the mountains are an oasis of good economic news and that its flagship hotels are expecting a strong year.

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