LETHBRIDGE, ALTA. -- The past year was an unprecedented time for travel with the COVID-19 pandemic bringing widespread business closures and travel restrictions.

It also had a previously unimagined impact on the tourism sector.

Tourism Lethbridge released their annual report on May 6 which confirmed it was a tough year for tourism in the city.

Hotels and lodgings across Lethbridge took one of the largest hits due to a major decrease in travel.

"It has been devastating," said Shilpa Stocker, the Lethbridge Lodging Association's project manager.

"Obviously, as with other businesses, the impact has been significant. Our occupancy, I would say, has dropped on average about 60 per cent, and so when occupancy drops by 60 per cent it puts a downward pressure on rates."

Sandman, Hotel, Lethbridge

In an effort to help, the Lethbridge Lodging Association is doing what they can to help bring more provincial tourism in by offering Lethbridge specific packages.

"We're looking at taking advantage of outdoor hiking and biking trails this summer with creating packages around trails to ensure that we've got unique offerings and people come here, not just because of discounted hotel rates, but because we have unique things to offer," Stocker told CTV.


It's not just hotels that have been hit though.

Other tourist spots in Lethbridge have also struggled, like the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens, which saw a 17 per cent decrease in visitation from previous years.

"Last year, we weren't able to open in May which is unfortunate as that's when our crab apple blossoms bloom," said Nikka Yuko's Executive Director, Michelle Day.

"We were lucky to open June to October, but unfortunately, during that May to October period, we lost about 38 per cent of our visitors."

Fortunately, Day said they were able to have a successful December for the Winter Lights Festival thanks to the community.

"We had amazing Lethbridge support. The locals came and we had 83 per cent of our visitors for December and January from Lethbridge, and from that we got an increase of visitation of 17 per cent for the Winter Lights Festival."

The Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens will once again postpone their May opening, and are hoping to be ready by June 3.


Exhibition Park has also faced a difficult year due to the ongoing pandemic.

Unfortunately they were forced to cancel the 2020 Whoop-Up Days, and the possibility of holding the 2021 event is still up in the air.

Exhibition, Park, Lethbridge, alberta

"Obviously, we've been impacted negatively by COVID-19 on our day-to-day operations," said Mike Warkentin, the newly appointed Chief Executive Officer for Exhibition Park.

tourism, lethbridge, pandemic, alberta

"We haven't been able to invite people here, we haven't been able to gather people which really is one of our major roles here in the community."

However, Warkentin said they were able to hold one of their larger events before the pandemic took hold which helped them out tremendously.

"We were fortunate in 2020 that we were able to do the 'Ag Expo Show' which is a big financial boost to our organization, but also a huge economic boost to our community."

Warkentin, along with everyone else at Exhibition Park, is excited to kick-off the 2021 Farmers Market, which starts tomorrow in the South Pavilion.

With summer 2021 upon us, these local Lethbridge staples and businesses are looking forward to more people from Lethbridge and beyond coming out to see what they have to offer as they hope to avoid another hard pressed season.

The full Tourism Lethbridge 2020 Annual Report is available here.