In Praise of Edmonton Tourism

Next week (April 24th to April 30th) is Edmonton Tourism Week in Edmonton and we have a number of things to celebrate.

I still remember my first tourist trip to Edmonton as a bright-eyed teenager on a family summer vacation. We were doing a pilgrimage up to my fathers musical Mecca (the CKUA record library on Jasper) and decades later, a few things still leap out for me. First, the abject chaos and energy of the Fringe festival. Second, the Barqs Root Beer street teams, which dates the trip, and third seeing firsthand the classic Carnegie-style historic architecture of the Strathcona Public Library. My story is like so many in this town - Tourism first brought me here, the University of Alberta kept me here.

My challenge to you this week: 1) be a tourist in your own city, and 2) shop local...

As a City Councillor, I work quite closely with the fantastic team at Explore Edmonton. This arms length body of which City Council is the shareholder, is responsible for a number of tasks including venues and also the promotion and storytelling of the "visitor economy". When we talk about economic diversification, or attracting new talent to Edmonton, or improving the quality of life for Edmontonians, we have so much to celebrate.

When you welcome guests to Edmonton, where do you take them? What are your favourite activities? Since becoming a Dad, many of my tourist experiences are more at stroller height:

  • High Level Street Car (everyone must do this at least once!)
  • E-Bike rentals such as Pedego and other local shops
  • Metro Cinema, Royal Alberta Museum, Art Gallery of Alberta, 
  • A lot of spots on the Coffee Pass, bakeries and snacks (For the kids of course...)
  • Skating at Meadows Rec or Victoria
  • Live Theatre (Studio Theatre U of A, RapidFire Exchange, Citadel - We have amazing opportunities!)
  • Breweries along Happy Beer Street after the kids hid the hay (Book a tour of Monolith!)
  • Site visits to the "Edmonton Playgrounds" Instagram.
  • Whatever is listed on the What's On In Edmonton page: https://exploreedmonton.com/event-calendar

What are your favourites? Get out there next week and try something new! I'm regularly shocked how few have attended some of the incredible amenities right here in own backyard. The more we know our own city, the more we can celebrate it.

Did you know that Edmonton was on the rise before the pandemic? In 2019 we welcomed a record number of 6.3 million visitors to Edmonton who spent $1.85 billion. According to research by Travel Alberta, Edmonton’s visitor economy will see the highest growth in the province at 61% by the year 2030. Research shows we could welcome almost 9 million visitors to the city in the year 2030. Visitor spending between 2024 and 2030 is expected to total almost $18 billion, which is about $2.5-3 billion per year.

We need to teach Edmontonians to see their city as a destination because visitors love Edmonton. 93% of residents in the Rockies say they’re very informed about tourism and research shows they recommend the area to visitors as much or even a little more than visitors do. While in Edmonton only 4% say they have strong knowledge of tourism, which is likely part of the reason why Edmontonians don’t recommend our city.

Major attracted events, like the JUNO Awards in March, are tourism. They not only improve quality of life for Edmontonians but inject a lot of money into our economy. In 2022, sport and cultural events provided $92 million in total economic impact, while business events and conferences added another $30 million, for a total of $122 million.

Sport is also a huge draw. Edmonton hosted the World Dodgeball Championships last fall. Volleyball Canada Super Nationals was an enormous draw. The youth sporting event, held at Edmonton EXPO Centre, is probably something you didn’t even know about, but it welcomed over 800 teams and sold over 52,000 hotel room nights, while producing $63.7 million in total economic impact for our area.

This week’s Canadian Hydrogen Convention is tourism. We’re expecting around 4,000 delegates with 2,000 people visiting from out of town. Business travelers and international visitors are the highest spending demographic in travel, and we’re expecting around 300 overseas travelers for this two-day conference.

Thanks for reading! Be a tourist in our own city and learn more at https://exploreedmonton.com/

 

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Challenging the U of A: Leading with purpose in housing and land use planning

City Council recently approved a rezoning across the street from the U of A and it got me thinking about all the underutilized or unused space on the U of A main campus.

The expression I often hear at city hall is “highest and best use of city land” – in other words, land that brings benefit to the community (eg, a park or public space) or land that generates revenue for the city to offset taxes and pay for services (Industrial, commercial, residential in that order) 

But what if the University of Alberta could generate revenue and mitigate the housing and climate crisis? The university already has the vehicle: the U of A Properties Trust, an arms length development corporation that pays dividends back into the U of A through innovative developments and land leases.

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