“This is a great contributor, a tremendous generator of employment and economic activity. As we consider a province, it’s the type of activity we want to encourage, and sustainable outdoor recreation seems to check many of those boxes. “
A new study of the economic benefits of outdoor recreation on Alberta’s Crown Land predicts significant potential for the provincial economy.
The study conducted by the Tourism Industry Association of Alberta (TIAA) found that $ 376 million was spent on outdoor equipment and accessories, with outdoor recreation adding $ 2.8 billion to the province’s gross domestic product.
“This is a great contributor, a tremendous generator of employment and economic activity. From our perspective as a province, it is the type of activity we want to encourage and sustainable outdoor recreation seems to test many of those criteria, ”said Darren Reeder, TIAA board advisor.
“It’s lighter in the landscape, it doesn’t require billions of dollars of built infrastructure to support people’s lives and livelihoods. I think what it really does is get people to look at and celebrate the heritage and cultural dimensions of the regions they live in. It is one of the most sustainable and desirable forms of economic development that we can foster on Crown Land as we look to the future. ”
Reeder said outdoor recreation might differ from ski slopes, trail development, resorts, spas and hot springs, but a focus on infrastructure renewal is needed.
He noted that other provinces and countries have political frameworks, British Columbia being the closest, but Alberta largely lacks the cohesive structure.
“The real obstacles, and there are a number of them, but one of them is that the province really doesn’t know what business they are in when it comes to encouraging tourism investment,” he said.
“What we’ve seen over the years are countless examples of people intent on doing things in Alberta that eventually go to British Columbia because there is a more predictable political framework in which to make decisions. We need a state-wide approach to building this economy, and we need to balance the goals of tourism, which falls under the Department of Labor, Economy and Innovation, with those of Alberta Environment and Parks. “
According to the study, 1.5 percent of employment – or 36,000 full-time equivalents – in Alberta is based on outdoor recreation. It also results in tax revenue of $ 551 million and accounts for 0.8 percent of the province’s GDP.
According to the study, the majority of the expenses are related to gasoline, accommodation, food and drink, equipment and activity fees.
The report contains six recommendations designed to support the growth of the outdoor leisure economy. The first would see a unified and coordinated voice for the outdoor leisure sector, while a supportive land policy of the Crown needs to be put in place and increased investment in infrastructure is needed.
The last three recommendations call for a full inventory of Crown Land’s outdoor recreational resources, data collection, and the establishment of an office dedicated solely to outdoor recreational activities.
“We need a lens for outdoor recreation,” said Reeder. “Many other places in the world have actually set up outdoor recreational offices to say that we, the entire government, understand this investment.”
People across the province flocked outdoors during COVID-19. Provincial and national parks saw significant increases in visitor numbers, particularly in Kananaskis Country, where more than five million people visited.
“The ability to connect with nature during COVID has rewired some people to seek more time in nature,” Reeder said. “It’s also a reminder that in the popular areas people discovered during COVID disease, there are some examples where the lack of support infrastructure, things as simple as washrooms, doesn’t make the landscape in a better place Leave a condition as if people have arrived. “
The study started in the spring and was completed with a comprehensive survey within five months.
Previous studies had been completed in the past but only looked at certain types of outdoor recreational activities, Reeder said.
Crown Land is part of the protected parks and lands under the Public Lands Act and makes up about 60 percent of the province, or nearly 40 million acres.
The land can serve a variety of purposes, from outdoor recreation to assisting conservation or the exercise of indigenous contract rights, tourism, and resource-based industries.
Shipowner said the TIAA had pushed for an investigation into the economic impact of outdoor recreational activities on crown land. Last year they released a report – Call to Action Report: Recommendations to Accelerate the Recovery, Sustainable Growth and Resilience of Alberta’s Visitor Economy – as part of an overall strategy.
The last provincial budget set an ambitious goal of doubling Alberta’s tourism economy to $ 20 billion a year by 2030.
Invest Alberta, a crown company dedicated to attracting investment to the province, has stated that tourism contributes approximately $ 8 billion in revenue and more than 36 million visitors annually.
A 2018 study by Statistics Canada Travel Survey of Residents of Canada confirmed those numbers at $ 8.2 billion for tourism and 35.2 million visits.
Travel Alberta estimates that there were around 68,800 tourism-related jobs and about 20,000 tourism-related businesses in Alberta in 2018.
While tourism helps people see some of Canada’s beautiful areas, the province also places a heavy levy on hotel and other lodging receipts. In 2019, the Alberta government received $ 89 million from a hotel levy. They estimated to raise $ 92 million in 2020, but received only $ 25 million after a cut during the COVID-19 pandemic to help troubled businesses keep the revenues.
Although tourists have still invaded Bow Valley and increased vaccinations have shed a light on the end of the tunnel, the levy is not expected to drop back to $ 92 million by 2023-24.
“Our first message would be, if we are serious about the growth of this industry, then we need the full application of the Alberta tourism tax, the Travel Alberta for the upcoming 2022-23 budget, which is set to a pre-COVID-19, is dedicated. “level to support the recovery effort,” said Reeder.
“We say if we want to be in this business and see it as an effective and responsible use of Crown land, then we have to get into the business.”