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Banff visitors encouraged to plan ahead, expect delays this Labour Day long weekend

Calgarians are looking to beat the holiday rush of traffic for the final long weekend of the summer, but many visitors to hot spots like Banff National Park should expect delays.

Marc Labbe is visiting from Winnipeg and left extra early Friday morning to get to his destination on time.

"We left at three in the morning just to avoid traffic that way, but either way, it's been important for us to pay attention to delays as well," he said.

Fateme Bahri knows all too well that being patient and taking her time on the long weekend is the safest way to travel.

"We usually try to leave early. Sometimes, we're stuck in the traffic jams, but that's fine by us -- we really love nature."

According to Parks Canada, the park gates are busiest between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. daily on long weekends and this year is on pace to be another record for visitation.

It's been so busy that traffic restrictions were implemented twice in Lake Louise recently as officials turned away guests without reservations.

Daniella Rubeling, visitor experience manager, says more slowdowns occurred as a result of a sinkhole that popped up in the eastbound lanes of Highway 1 near Banff.

"Engineers are continuing to assess the situation and we did have some closures on the Trans-Canada Highway Thursday night but thankfully, we were able to open things up to one-way traffic so with that one lane only, there are some delays."

Rubeling says visitors should follow all marked speed limits on the highway and slow down to 90 kilometres per hour once they enter Banff National Park.

Making reservations in advance for campsites or shuttles into the Town of Banff is also recommended.

"Once visitors get here, we always recommend parking their car and then using alternate modes of transportation to get around, so whether that's road transit, whether that's Parks Canada shuttles, those are the best ways for people to enjoy themselves and have a hassle-free visit."

This year, however, shuttle access from Banff to Moraine Lake and Lake Louise has been sold out of its 2,800 daily tickets every single day of the summer.

Tickets come online in the morning two days ahead of a scheduled trip, so tourists and visitors will need to act fast to get a spot.

Banff National Park is coming off its busiest summer in the past five years, according to the latest visitation numbers.

In July 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the park received 581,202 visitors but this July saw a hefty increase with 718,191 people entering the grounds.

Tourism is a relied-on industry and shops like the Big Bear Trading Company in Banff are enjoying the added boost.

"This has been by far one of our busiest summers yet and we're hoping again for another really busy Labour Day weekend," said Kerri Muirhead, assistant store manager.

"I'd say the vast majority of our customer base is tourists, so we're grateful to see more continue to keep coming back."

New data from Verum Consulting finds that the towns of Canmore and Banff collectively generate $112 million in provincial taxes annually and contribute $2.3 billion to Alberta's GDP. Top Stories

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