Alberta outfitters decimated by COVID-19 restrictions, cost tourism industry billions

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The COVID-19 pandemic, and associated travel restrictions and mass gathering bans, has hit tourism industries around the world hard, and Alberta is no exception.

In Canada, total tourism spending is predicted to drop between 35 and 59 per cent from 2019 — depending on whether the virus is contained or not — according to numbers by Destination Canada. The worse-case scenario sees spending fall to $42 billion in 2020, and 450,000 jobs supporting by tourism spending lost.

Before the pandemic, tourism in Alberta generated about $8.9 billion and employed 73,000 people, Travel Alberta told Global News.

“The visitor economy was in a very healthy position and on a path to continued growth,” said Claire Griffin, a spokesperson for Travel Alberta.

Travel Alberta recently surveyed industry partners to get a better idea of how the pandemic is affecting them and their business. Certain areas of the tourism industry are being hit harder than others. For instance, segments that rely on international visitors — like hunting and outfitting — or venues that host conferences or large gatherings.

The Travel Alberta survey found:

But that ratio isn’t true of all segments of the industry.

The Alberta Professional Outfitters Society estimates its economic contribution to Alberta is about $105 million annually, according to data from 2016.

The group said the industry also adds $58 million to GDP, creates 460 full-time positions — $24.4 million in wages, salaries and benefits — and $12.1 million in taxes.

Over 90 per cent of its business comes from clients who come from outside Canada, according to the APOS. About four per cent comes from other parts of Canada.

Black Dog Outfitters, a full service outfitter based in Tofield, Alta., estimates 98 per cent of its clientele is international and 90 per cent of that is American. Therefore, the border closures — especially between the U.S. and Canada — have been brutal on business.

“It’s hit us hard. I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s so crazy,” owner Kyler Harms said.


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