May 24 - 31 is recognized as Tourism Week here in Canada.

Normally, this would be time to celebrate Alberta's thriving tourism industry and promote outside travel to our province. However, much like everything else in wake of the pandemic, Tourism Week looks different this year.

COVID-19  has brought tourism to a standstill in the country. The Canadian and US borders were closed to non-essential travel back in March and they aren't expected to reopen until at least June 21.

Alberta’s iconic landscapes and hotspot destinations typically draw millions of visitors to our province. Visitors contribute billions of dollars to our economy and in turn, support thousands of full-time jobs. 

In a statement, Alberta's Minister of Economic Trade and Tourism, Tanya Fir says that Alberta’s tourism industry, and the innovative tourism businesses behind it, play a valuable role in boosting our economy and driving it forward.

She says that "Alberta’s tourism industry has been faced with unprecedented challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our tourism industry was one of the industries hit first, and hit hardest, and we recognize there will be more challenges to overcome in the months and year ahead." Fir continues to say that the province is working to do all they can to provide relief and move through the phases of the relaunch and pave a path to recovery.

Banff-Airdrie MP Blake Richards is also the Shadow Cabinet Minister for Tourism in Alberta and he says that tourism is primarily a seasonal industry that requires planning ahead. 

Richards believes that the prime season for tourism is being missed out on, along with a major contributing factor that drives the Alberta economy.

He says "A lot of their revenues are generated in one part of the year and we're in that part of the year right now.  They're at risk of losing a season.  The other thing is that tourism will take longer to recover.  The government needs to give the industry some certainty about what that will look like."

Richards expressed disappointed in the federal government's support of the tourism industry and says it has been over a month since the Prime Minister promised help for the industry.

Richards made suggestions on how he believes the government should offer to help, by saying "I think to offer to market winter-tourism to make up for some of the lost summer tourism.  To help the market to Canadians why they should visit different parts of the country.  Those are the kinds of things that will help to relaunch tourism and so far we have yet to get a commitment from the government to do something like that to help the industry."

Richards says that it is going to be difficult for all businesses in Canada to recover from the pandemic, and he believes the tourism industry will be one of the hardest hit.

He says "They're going to have a longer window of time that they have to survive and it gets more difficult as time goes on.  I'm quite concerned about how many businesses will survive in the industry."

In her statement, Alberta's Minister of Economic Trade and Tourism, Tanya Fir stresses the importance of supporting local businesses. She says "Our province has so much to offer. This week, I encourage Albertans to safely and responsibly go out to support your local businesses and explore the unique attractions and landscapes in your communities."