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'I haven't seen it like this ever': Business event bookings are already booming for Calgary Stampede


This year’s Calgary Stampede is shaping up to be a busy one for the city if local business bookings are any indication.

Dave Howard, the president and owner of The Event Group, a boutique event planning company that puts on events ranging from 400 to 4,000 guests, said bookings for the first two weeks of July are nearly full.

“It has been crazy. We’ve been in business since 1997, this is the busiest that we’ve seen it so early on in the season, so madness,” he said.

Howard said that locking down a venue is proving very difficult during the 10 days of Stampede and he attributes that to more businesses coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I haven’t seen it like this ever, trying to get our clients into venues. If there is companies out there looking to get into the Stampede game, you better get into it now because the competition for venues is very fierce, to find staff is very difficult to do,” he said.

The boom in bookings for the Calgary Stampede comes as other cities in Canada see festivals struggle to stay afloat due to rising costs of inflation, dampening tourism and other challenges that arose from the pandemic, such as the cancellation of the Just For Laughs Toronto festival and Saskatoon’s Ribfest.

Howard said he’s encouraged by the demand in Calgary, including a new tented venue being planned at Currie Barracks during the Stampede being put up by Burwood Distillery.

“It seems like here we are in Calgary and we’re not the norm, what’s happening across Canada is (the) cancellation of these types of events and in our city things are picking up and they’re very busy,” he said.

“We can always look at Stampede and see it as a barometer for the rest of the year and how things are going to play out, we think Calgary is doing really, really well.”

The Calgary Stampede said both corporate and consumer sales are ahead of 2023 levels this year, as are rodeo and evening show ticket sales, in an emailed statement Monday.

“The Calgary Stampede proudly welcomed just under 1.4 million total visitors during our annual Stampede celebration last year and we are anticipating similar attendance this July,” the Stampede said.

“With just over 100 days until Stampede 2024, we are thrilled with the interest and support we are receiving from local businesses and the public.”

Historically, one-third of visitors to the Stampede are from outside of Calgary, according to the organization.

'A huge growth this year'

Jessica Martinez, owner and chef at La Belle Graze which offers grazing boards and food display tables for up to 500 people, said she has been at 80 per cent capacity for catering bookings during the Stampede since January.

Jessica Martinez, owner and chef at La Belle Graze, prepares a box of grazing food. (CTV News)

“We are definitely seeing a huge growth this year,” she said. “There definitely needs to (be) an appreciation of the lockdown effect the Stampede has on this industry as a whole.

“It’s not just caterers in general having capacity. It’s making sure we have the right rentals available for our rental companies, our bar team is going to have availability, do we have enough decor, do we have enough transportation, do we have enough staff? It’s just the whole industry that goes into lockdown.”

Geoff Allan, the general manager at Bottlescrew Bills, said they are nearly booked for parties during Stampede and some of those bookings came as early as December.

The establishment saw a resurgence of visitors at last year’s Stampede, but Allan expects it to be even bigger this summer.

“I think this year will feel tremendous. We just had Saint Patrick’s Day and it felt like Stampede for three days around here. I think people are really looking forward to forgetting the past and congregating as usual so, I think this year is going to go off,” he said.

Allan said most bookings are locally driven, rather than from people outside of Alberta.

“Oil and gas, legal, tech, kind of all sectors,” he said. “It’s always been the core of our business, the tourism and stuff will come later.”

Sol Zia, executive director of the Calgary Hotel Association, said that hotel bookings are down slightly from 30 per cent occupancy for Stampede heading into March of this year as compared to 35 per cent last year.

However, he does expect average occupancy over the Stampede to match last year’s, at 80 per cent.

“When I’ve talked to a lot of venues, a lot of what you’re seeing is full is driven by local residents and regional folks,” he said.

“There is still a lot of time before hotels get booked, a lot of bookings happen in the last three to four weeks of the event.”

The Calgary Stampede runs July 5-14, 2024. Top Stories

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