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Lethbridge celebrates a thriving year of visitors during National Tourism Week

Tourism continues to thrive in Lethbridge, Alta.

In 2023, the city saw a 32 per cent increase year over year in passenger volumes at the Lethbridge Airport and a 5.6 per cent increase in vehicle traffic.

According to Tourism Lethbridge CEO Erin Crane, National Tourism Week helps to recognize the growing economy in southern Alberta through a variety of events, attractions and experiences.

“In 2023 we saw a decrease from 2022. We were at about 19 million this year, and you know that actually is a really good number to have,” explained Crane.

“It was just in 2022, we had hosted some major events like the Tim Hortons Brier, Alberta Treaty Hockey Provincials and what those numbers tell us, and it’s nice that we’re tracking them, is to see these ebbs and flows.”

Crane said Tourism Lethbridge’s goal is to have some major events coming in every single year, so the tourism platform doesn’t rise and fall as much as they’ve seen in years past.

“There’s a vitality wheel that I often talk about,” said Crane. “You know that if you create a community where people want to visit, you’ve created a community where people want to live, and if you create a community where people want to live you’ve created a community where people want to work.”

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“If you create a community where people want to work, you create a community where people want to invest. Investment brings more visitors, and the cycle continues and that’s the forward momentum that we want to see here in Lethbridge,” she continued.

Local hot spots like Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden shared their excitement for the recent boost in visitation.

“So, both during the summertime and the winter months we did over 35,000 people which is a 32 per cent increase and 16 per cent respectively,” said Erik Granson, marketing and events manager for Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden.

“One of the most amazing things actually is the increase in attendance from both Medicine Hat and Edmonton as well during the Winter Lights Festival.”

Granson adds that earlier this year, staff from the Japanese Garden, which is set to open in May, attended the Garden Conference in Victoria and were presented with a major award.

“Our executive director was there, and we actually ended up getting a ‘Top 10 Gardens Worth Traveling For’ (recognition). That’s beating the Singapore gardens and many others that were in there. It’s humbling to be a part of that group, but also it’s really exciting to really showcase this top-10 garden in our own backyard,” said Granson.”

In addition, the Galt Museum & Archives and Fort Whoop-Up shared their own successes with the presentation of their annual report on April 18 at Lethbridge City Hall.

“We’re very proud of all our volunteers and all the activities happening at the Fort and Galt,” said Jesse Sadlowski, board chair for the Galt Museum.

“Our Fort has our attendance up by 20 per cent, as well as the Galt attendance is up at nine per cent.”

Lethbridge isn’t the only thriving community, with Minister of Tourism and Sport Joseph Schow sharing that the province as a whole is seeing alleviated pressures in the sector.

“International travellers that we want to see come back to Alberta after the pandemic are coming back by the droves and the numbers tell us exactly that,” said Schow. “We have actually matched pre-pandemic levels spending from international travellers in three quarters in 2023, instead of four from 2019.”

International visitor spending reached $2.53 billion in those three quarters of 2023, compared to $2.28 billion in international spending for all of 2019.

A new tourism strategy implemented by the province back in February also looks to reach a goal of growing Alberta’s visitor economy to $25 billion in annual visitor spending by 2035.

“Now that we’re out of the pandemic, I think it’s a great time for us to start planning long-term,” Schow said. “We’ve set this goal, which I think is very achievable, by relying upon things like increasing air access, working to develop Indigenous tourism, working with government and making sure we have collaboration there, ensuring that we’re working with post-secondary schools and creating immigration streams to meet the labour needs and so many other factors,” added Schow.

The Tourism Industry of Canada indicates the sector has infused $100 billion into the Canadian economy and fuels the creation of one in 10 jobs nationally.

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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