Skiers were once again greeted with fresh powder on the slopes in Banff National Park this weekend as Albertans continue to enjoy some outdoor recreation that falls outside of the heavy COVID-19 restrictions in place until mid-January.
When announcing heightened restrictions on Dec. 8, Premier Jason Kenny said the ski hills would remain open providing safety protocols were maintained.
Banff-Kananaski MLA Miranda Rosin says it was a win-win situation for Albertans.
"Obviously the new restrictions will be different for the ski hills. I imagine many of the lodges and restaurants will be closed and the ski shops will have limited capacity, but at least at the end of the day, they can keep people on the slopes and keep people skiing.
"It's not only good for the local economy in Banff and for all of the hundreds of workers who are employed at the ski hills, but honestly it's just good for the everyday Albertan who needs to get away and go get some fresh air and exercise, especially now that indoor gyms are closed."
She's hoping the ski hills see strong numbers this year despite its international audience being eliminated at this point.
"I think the demographic of their visitation will be very different. There likely will be next to zero international visitors on the slopes this year, but there are a lot of Albertans, and maybe even some people from neighbouring provinces, who are not just come out to the slopes, but maybe even buying season passes when they might not normally have done that.
"I'm optimistic that the ski hills will have a good season. It will be a different demographic than usual, but as long as there are people on the slopes and people are enjoying their ski season and making memories, I think it's a win for everyone."
In May, Rosin chaired a tourism and hospitality industry recovery task force that brought together tourism industry and government officials to take action to help the industry hit hardest by COVID-19.
Rosin says the work of that task force has now been completed and was struck at a time when the industry was hit with 85 per cent unemployment. She says others can now carry the torch, including Martin Long, the parliamentary secretary of tourism and small business appointed in October. Additionally, significant financial aid has been provided to help the industry in a trying time.
In May, Alberta’s government approved the abatement of the tourism levy from Mar. 1 to Dec. 31, as a way to free up an estimated $22 million in capital for the sector. It allows hotels and other lodging providers to keep the tourism levy to help them keep their doors open.
Recently, the abatement was extended until Mar. 31, 2021. It's estimated to free up to $10 million in additional cash flow for the sector to employ staff, maintain operations and continue providing valuable services through the winter season.
Other measures adopted by the Alberta government include providing $8 million in support to help promote Alberta destinations and expanding Travel Alberta’s role within the province. The organization is now responsible for helping develop new travel destinations and expanding tourism across the province, in addition to marketing and promoting Alberta destinations.
Travel Alberta will also conduct key industry research to assist tourism businesses and stakeholders in making informed business decisions.
Rosin was also pleased to see a cooperative effort between the Alberta and federal government to expedite COVID-19 testing at the Calgary International Airport.
"I was excited to see our province get the only partnership with the federal government that there is in the county to allow two or three-day rapid testing/quarantining at the Calgary airport to allow people to come back here."