Edmonton tourist dollars give needed boost to Canmore businesses during pandemic

Luke Porter was in Canmore or climbing trips in the Bow Valley twice already this summer and he plans to sneak in one more trip in October, hopefully before the snow flies.

It’s a long drive for the Edmonton millwright, which means he stays overnight, either in a tent or a hotel. “I spend money when I am there,” Porter said. “I buy groceries, and I like going into all the little stores.”

Edmonton tourists, like Porter, have been an increasingly important source of income for Canmore businesses in the past months as pandemic travel restrictions put the brakes on the usual tour buses of international travelers.

“Edmonton visitors come in droves and then they stay overnight,” Rachel Ludwig, interim CEO of Tourism Canmore Kananaskis, told CBC radio’s Edmonton AM. “That means business for our hotel partners but also for our restaurant partners and retail shops and so on. They are spending money in town, which we desperately need during the pandemic.”

Typically, 45 per cent of Edmonton visitors to Canmore stay overnight, while only 15 per cent of Calgary visitors do so. 

Ludwig said visitors from B.C., Saskatchewan and even Ontario also helped make up for the lack of international visitors during the summer months.

In order to accommodate visitors at a safe social distance, Canmore closed some streets to vehicle traffic during the summer.

While his climbing spots haven’t been too busy on his visits, Porter said hiking trails were sometimes overcrowded.

“We had a rest day and went up Ha Ling, that’s the most classic Canmore thing you can do, and it was packed,” Porter said. “We did [Mount] Temple and it was packed and the trail through Larch Valley was populated, even in the middle of the week.”

With the busy summer season behind them, Ludwig says Canmore businesses are now worried about the winter, with borders still closed and gatherings limited to 50 people or fewer.

“We fear the worst, to be honest,” Ludwig said. “It will definitely be much quieter than any other year.”

If Edmonton tourists keep visiting, it might help area businesses get through the months ahead, she said.

“We will need all the Edmontonians to come out and stay the night,” Ludwig said. “Experience everything Canmore has to offer.”

With files from Ariel Fournier

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