Weather, Not Gas Prices, Key Factor in Alberta Tourism
Soaring gas prices – the pumps hit close to $1.30 a litre in Calgary this week and higher across the rest of the country – may keep people out of their cars and RVs this summer, slowing a tourism resurgence, the Calgary Herald reported.
With analysts warning prices could remain high for months, many in the tourism industry are watching for the fallout of expensive fuel.
"It will have some impact," said Randy Williams, CEO of Tourism Calgary, noting that gas isn't the largest percentage of a vacation's cost.
"But it's definitely a drag on the tourism economy because it does increase the cost of travel."
Tourism Calgary had earlier reduced its revenue growth projection for this year to 3% from 4%, citing fuel prices, the strong Canadian dollar and the disaster in Japan.
Those relying on car traffic to boost summer sales hope that should those travelling from farther afield decide to stay home, Albertans with a similar mindset will offset that traffic.
Leanna Mohan, marketing coordinator with the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, said during the last spike in gas prices a couple of years ago the number of local visitors did jump.
"I think what happens is Calgarians tend not to go to the Shuswap and explore closer to home," she said. "We're only one tank of gas away."
Krista Reid, who drives a Chrysler SUV she refers to as a "gas hog" said the price of fuel will reduce the number of longer trips her family takes this summer.
"My family is in Saskatchewan and we usually go two or three times in the summer to see them," she said while filling up at the Tsuu T'ina Gas Stop. "This summer, we might only go once."
Melissa Smith, who works at the Bow River's Edge RV Park in Cochrane, predicts some travellers from farther away might stay home this year.
"It's a little bit of a concern," she said. "But it might encourage people to stay closer to home, stay here rather than go to the Okanagan.
"If anything, we'll get more people from Calgary come out to camp, rather than drive a longer distance away."
Smith added that caravans from the U.S. that often come up from Stampede might stay parked if the gas price remains high.
But Doug Fraser, spokesman for the Calgary Stampede, said 70% of their attendance is drawn from the Calgary area.
"We may miss a few people from out of province, but we may keep a lot of people in Calgary, who decide that because of the price of gas they'll have a staycation," he said.
He agrees with Banff Lake Louise Tourism's Kurt Schroeder that a cool, wet summer would have a bigger impact than gas prices.
"I worry more about bad weather," Schroeder, the director of marketing and communications, said, adding that most guests coming from longer distances have already booked their trips.
He also hopes people, with the aim of driving less, may not "pass as far through the province" and linger in the Banff area.
Yuri Isakovich, a Calgary karate instructor who is heading to Manitoba today, said he opted to fly rather than drive because of the prices.
"I calculated it and it's cheaper to fly, and won't take as long," he said.
Robert Palmer, spokesman for WestJet, said they don't usually notice a swing between driving and flying based on the price of gas.
"Both the cost of jet fuel and the cost of gasoline are both high right now, which means it's more expensive both to drive and fly at the moment," he said in an e-mail, adding that other factors such as convenience and weather also come into play.
"All in all we don't expect to see large numbers of people deciding to fly rather than drive because of recent pump price increases."