CALGARY -- Summer is usually the busiest season for some of the prime destinations in Canada's mountain parks, but officials say the number of visitors were way down in 2020.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the travel restriction that came along with it, many companies in Banff saw their business cut by about half of what they'd normally see.

The hotel occupancy in the town's hotels was about 22 per cent in June and July wasn't much better, coming in at about 46 per cent.

With the borders remaining closed until at least Sept. 21, the community has been working to entice Canadian travellers to go there, offering some sales on accommodations and attractions.

Businesses such as Rocky Mountain Rafting Tours say the lack of foreign tourists has resulted in many of the tour buses they rely on not coming.

"We’re a wholesale operator and we knew the bus business was going to collapse so we had to throw away the business model and pivot into smaller personalized tours," said Tim Cann with Rocky Mountain Raft Tours.

But there is a silver lining – all that added space means there's more room to physically distance from others.

"People have really responded well to that. As bad as it’s been, we’ll survive."

Representatives of the area's tourism industry say they're relying on local visitors to come to the mountain parks.

"We still don't expect international visitors until 2021, so we're really looking to Albertans and Canadians to really consider taking their vacations here," said Angela Anderson, with Banff-Lake Louise Tourism.

A number of the businesses say they've seen local support.

"A lot of people have chosen Banff as their destination for the summer, and it's appreciated," said James McDonald with Abominable Sports. "(The) U.S. dollar and the Euro aren't here to spend their high dollars, so we've had to adjust our numbers accordingly to appeal to the locals."

Many businesses hope those getaways, consisting of a few nights at a hotel, a visit to a few attractions and some money spent souvenirs, will be just the ticket to help the local economy.


The Canada Border Services Agency, in its latest data from the week of Aug. 24 to 30, says the volumes of people crossing into Canada at land crossings is down by 88 per cent and 93 per cent at airports compared to the same time a year ago.

On Aug. 30, 2020, 2,634 travellers entered Canada through U.S. flights while 9,003 came into the country via international flights.

There were also 6,837 non-commercial travellers entering the country by road, which is more than 97 per cent fewer than how many came into Canada on Sept. 1, 2019 (260,395).

The government of Canada announced enhanced border measures against foreign nationals on March 16 and the suspension of all non-essential travel along the Canada-U.S. border on March 21.

(With files from Alesia Fieldberg)