Good news from the Badlands about tourism

Brian Varga of Canadian Badlands Tourism says even during the economic downturn, visitor numbers to the region remained healthy

Brian Varga is president of Canadian Badlands Tourism  and also a councillor with the City of Medicine Hat.

Brian Varga, president of Canadian Badlands Tourism, is also a City of Medicine Hat councillor.

Calgary’s Business: What are the latest tourism numbers for the Canadian Badlands and how do they compare with a year ago?

Varga: Canadian Badlands Tourism runs a marketing campaign every year and we use the data from hotels and attractions to gauge visitation in the area. Overall the numbers are up straight across the board from last year.

CB: What are the main areas of attraction these days in the Canadian Badlands?

Varga: There are a vast amount of attractions in the Canadian Badlands. Canadian Badlands is also home to Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The world’s Largest Teepee in Medicine Hat, the Aqua Ducts in Brooks, the oldest wood train bridge in Lethbridge. Medalta Potteries Historic site in Medicine Hat, plus many attractions listed on the map from all our 60 communities in the Badlands.

CB: Has the breakdown on where visitors are coming from changed over the years?

Varga: I don’t think the demographics have changed drastically, however, visitation has escalated due to increased marketing of the region. The Royal Tyrrell Museum alone attracts almost 500,000 visitors annually from all over the world. The largest percentage of visitors come from Saskatchewan and right here in Alberta. We have seen an increase in visitors from China, possibly due to the work that Travel Alberta has been doing to promote our beautiful province. The ‘Cowboy Experience’ has become a very popular, sought-after holiday for people from Germany, and there are a number of options for this in the Badlands. The great news is that many travel the Badlands from right here in Alberta.

CB: How much of an impact did the recession in Alberta in 2015 and 2016 have on the tourism industry there?

Varga: Tourism in the Badlands showed an increase due to stay-cationers. The economy was hurting and the result was Albertans had less money to take far-away holidays so they stayed in Alberta and holidayed locally. As an organization, tourism grant dollars from the government of Alberta have decreased over the last three to four years. Government is striving to make us sustainable for the future. Over the next few years, we are going to have to plan new ways to create great experiences for people to have when they travel to the Badlands.

CB: What has been the impact of a continued lower dollar?

Varga: We don’t have any data on this, however, we hear from the visitor information centres that visitation from the United States is higher.

– Mario Toneguzzi

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