Tourism: By the Numbers

Alberta has six UNESCO World Heritage Sites, more than 470 provincial parks, 18 provincial historic sites and 5 national parks. When these remarkable parks and natural spaces are combined with the province’s friendly people, appealing cities and events it all adds up to an endless list of exceptional tourism experiences and adventures for residents and visitors alike.

By the Numbers

  • $8.9 billion Total annual expenditures by tourists in Alberta
  • 72,500 Number of full-time jobs generated by Alberta’s tourism sector
  • 23,000+ Number of businesses in Alberta dedicated to supporting the province’s tourism industry
  • $7.3 billion JAmount contributed to Alberta’s GDP annually by the province’s tourism industry

Source: Government of Alberta, Statistics Canada

And the visitors come by the millions. In 2017, there were more than 2.3 million nights booked at accommodations throughout the province and more than 160,000 direct flights that arrived in Alberta. While travellers from other parts of Canada are the most frequent visitors, millions of tourists from all over the world flock to Alberta year-round for an eclectic mix of activities and events right across the province, from the picturesque mountains and rolling hills to the charming rural prairies and majestic forests. While 2020 saw a marked decrease in tourism activity due to the global pandemic, businesses supporting Alberta’s visitor economy quickly adapted to new ways of operating and are prepared to safely continue showcasing the iconic and diverse attractions awaiting tourists.

Southwest Alberta a Crown Jewel

AlbertaSouthwest (AlbertaSW) – a regional partnership of 15 communities to promote economic development – has earned its place among top global destinations that strive to be more sustainable to preserve, enhance and celebrate an iconic character of place.

AlbertaSW, as part of the “crown of the continent” region, finished in third place in the Best of the Americas category during the annual Sustainable 100 Destination Awards in March 2020, behind Vail, Colorado, and Guyana.

“This global recognition is a reflection of international, provincial and municipal level commitment to grow prosperous communities that celebrate the important connection to our landscapes, history and culture,” says Bev Thornton, executive director of AlbertaSW.

AlbertaSW had previously been named as a Global Top 100 Sustainable Destination in October 2019. The region sits in the northeast corner of the “crown of the continent,” which is a larger transboundary region encompassing the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, and the surrounding areas of Alberta, British Columbia and Montana.

Want to Reward Tourists? There’s An App for That

Alberta communities have a new resource designed to shine a spotlight on local businesses and encourage people to explore their community.

Economic Developers Alberta (EDA) has launched the Xperience Alberta app providing a platform that allows communities and regions within the province to create their own branded mobile app to help drive traffic to local attractions and generate sales for local businesses. The app includes the ability to create and manage a rewards program. Users of the app can earn points for visiting identified locations in the community and redeem points when making purchases. EDA has made the app available to both members and non-members to help increase adoption and reach.

“For our province’s economy to thrive, local economies must also thrive. That means supporting local businesses,” says Leann Hackman-Carty, CEO of EDA. “This platform is a powerful tool for engaging community residents and visitors in a way that drives people into local businesses.”

Local Tourists Key to Supporting Small Businesses

It’s estimated that of Alberta’s 23,000 tourism-related businesses, a little more than half are run by self-employed operators. Amid the pandemic in 2020, these businesses – along with other small tourism businesses in Alberta – have quickly adapted their environments to meet provincial health requirements, ensuring guests have safe and positive experiences.

“That tourism businesses are always attuned to the ever-changing needs of the visitor has positioned the industry to respond quickly during the pandemic crisis,” says Darren Reeder, board advisor with the Tourism Industry Association of Alberta. Previously, local residents represented 83 percent of all person visits in Alberta and 54 percent of tourism expenditures.

“In the absence of U.S. and international visitors spending money in our communities at this time, Albertans need to spend generously, and often, to help ensure the businesses that sell the products and services they appreciate are there tomorrow,” says Reeder. “Tourism businesses are many of the businesses that drive the spirit of our communities and provide meaningful employment opportunities for friends, and family.”