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Tourism town hall wraps in Lethbridge

It was the last stop for the Tourism Industry Association of Alberta (TIAA) as they wrapped up their provincial tourism town hall series in Lethbridge.

Stavros Karlos, director of policy, research and government affairs with the TIAA says partners from Travel Alberta, Indigenous Tourism Alberta and WestJet came down for round table discussions to expand the visitor economy.

“We’re here today to discuss the tourism potential of the Medicine Hat and Lethbridge region along the Highway 3 corridor and ensure that all tourism operators within the region know and understand the opportunities ahead of them,” said Karlos.

“As well, we’re here to foster an increasing sense of collaboration and partnership across the region as well.”

The previous four stops were in Fort McMurray, Calgary, Edmonton, and Red Deer where tourism partners gathered to discuss opportunities for growth in their respective regions.

“When Travel Alberta did their research last year on local sentiment for visitation, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat region actually had the highest proportion of residents who would welcome visitors to their community at 88 per cent,” explained Karlos.

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“That was the highest amongst all regions in the province, including the Canadian Rockies, and so, boy, you have some welcoming folks here who really want to show your communities. So, I think that bodes well for the future of visitation in southern Alberta.”

Erin Crane, the CEO of Tourism Lethbridge, said having these open conversations between travel organizations is a strong benefit.

“Today is especially great because we’re joined by our partners all the way from Medicine Hat to Crowsnest Pass because we’re really focusing on that regional reach,” said Crane. “We all know that we need to work together in order to really bring that economic impact that’s needed to this area.”

She went on to share that partners like Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump are getting over 200 tour buses every year.

“You know, how do we get those tour buses and move them more around the region so that everyone benefits,” shared Crane. “It’s that working together that is so important and leads to everyone benefitting.”

Terry Goertzen, vice president of economic development for Travel Alberta, says Lethbridge is still catching up to the rest of the province but is optimistic that the region can bounce back.

“We have seen tourism across the province rebound significantly in the last year and we have some recent numbers around international travel far exceeding 2019, but here in Lethbridge we still need to recover some more,” said Goertzen.

“One of the reasons that we haven’t recovered as fast here, is they haven’t hosted as many major events recently, but I’m really confident that with the planned events coming, we’ve got the under 25 curling (event) just announced, that we’re going to rebuild the economy and tourism economy here very soon.”

Tourism Lethbridge also looks forward to returning annual events like Whoop-Up Days, the Dragon Boat Festival and Street Wheelers which draw significant crowds to town.

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