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Tourism influx has Calgary hotels near capacity and eyeing attendance records

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Calgary's tourism projections suggest 2023's edition of the Stampede could break some long-standing records. 

Hotel occupancy rates are set for more than 90 per cent during the festival. 

It's great news for the city's economy -- but a headache for travel stragglers as last second deals are few and far between. 

"This year is bigger and you can feel the energy has come up even higher than last year," Tourism Calgary CEO Cindy Ady said. "(Tourists) enjoy the friendliness of the people of Calgary and how welcoming they are."

Throughout its 10-day run, the Stampede is projected to draw about 1.2 million visitors. That'll be on par with last year, when the event brought in its fourth-largest attendance in history. 

"This is one of one of biggest tourism attractions the country has to offer," federal tourism minister Randy Boissonnault told CTV News. "The numbers tell the right story. What's interesting is our American visitation is coming back. We're seeing more Europeans, we're seeing more Canadians travel."

Tourism Calgary says that American boost is driving a lot of the traffic. It's led by Californians, New Yorkers and Texans. 

The hotel association says booking hit a record high in May, and July is expected to far exceed pre-pandemic levels. 

And travel booking site Airbnb says the traffic is stretching, too. 

Calgary currently ranks among its trending summer destinations, and searches for the city during the Stampede significantly increased compared to the first three months of 2022. 

Alberta's premier believes provincial ad campaigns are partially responsible. 

"Obviously that message is resonating with tourists, and I hope people are taking a look here so they can maybe consider moving here permanently," Danielle Smith said. "We've got an economy on the move and people know it, people see it and they want to be part of it."

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