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International visitors in Jasper expected to be higher than before COVID

"In park visitation, numbers have been steadily increasing over the last three years, so there's really no indication that that trend won’t continue."
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Tourism Jasper says the destination is heading in the right direction for a successful summer. | Peter Shokeir / Jasper Fitzhugh

Tourism Jasper has sunny predictions when it comes to visitation this upcoming summer.

Tyler Riopel, CEO of Tourism Jasper, said the year had a rocky start with visitation down nine per cent in January compared to 2023.

“I think that to the challenges at the start of the ski season with low snow volumes and probably for the timing of the cold snap during peak period,” Riopel said.

“But February and March were right on par, so that coincides with when we saw the winter conditions start to work in our favour.”

During the winter, Jasper draws heavily from regional markets such as Edmonton.

Riopel said these markets can be fickle with many potential visitors changing their plans at the last minute if the weather isn’t working out.

“And so, as a result, we started to push harder into long haul Canada and US ski markets we're gonna get by design because we just know the further people travel to come to the destination, the less likely they are to change their plans at the last minute, and we know that those people spend more.”

As per usual, visitation steadily increased as the destination entered spring with Victoria Day long weekend unofficially marking the start of the busy season.

Parks Canada estimates that Jasper National Park had over 2.48 million visitors in 2023, an increase from before COVID in 2019 when the park had 2.46 million visitors.

“In park visitation, numbers have been steadily increasing over the last three years, so there's really no indication that that trend won’t continue,” Riopel said.

“Then lots of operators are already reporting that their advance bookings are really strong right through to September, so we know that we're headed the right direction for a very successful summer.”

Riopel predicted that international visitation would exceed pre-pandemic numbers this year.

This is due almost entirely to American tourists since overseas visitation is still lagging, although Tourism Jasper anticipates that those overseas markets will start to return in 2025.

Domestic travellers account for two-thirds of total tourism in Canada while international tourism makes up the remaining third.

Riopel said Jasper gets more international tourism as a percentage, estimating it was between a third and a half of total visitation.

With the summer season mostly taking care of itself, Tourism Jasper has been focused on increasing visitation in the winter and shoulder seasons.

“One of the strategies that we're looking at right now is just rounding out products and offerings and experiences that can be offered year-round so they're not necessarily at the whims of weather patterns,” Riopel said.

Examples of this include the arts and culture offerings during Jasper in January and the Dark Sky Festival.

The fruits of Tourism Jasper’s labour are not always visible to the public, as this organization often works behind the scenes, but some of its more visible initiatives include working with partners to help offer temporary dressing rooms while the Jasper Arena was being renovated.

“What we're doing right now is we're looking for ways to extend our partnerships outside of the community into partnerships that can benefit the community,” Riopel added.

An example of that would be partnering with the Edmonton Oilers and securing a 50/50 game, with a portion of the proceeds going to Friends of Jasper National Park, Jasper Minor Sports and the Jasper Food Bank.

Tourism Jasper has also been exploring the potential benefits of artificial intelligence for supporting local tourism operators.

This summer, Tourism Jasper plans to launch an AI travel assistant.

“That will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, speaks 15 languages, provides direct referrals based on user inquiries, and we're the first DMO (destination management organization) in Canada that is implementing this technology,” Riopel said.

Tourism Jasper has also launched a new online booking engine on jasper.travel so visitors can more quickly and easily secure accommodations.

“All of those bookings still are happening on the hotel booking sites, but we've centralized it into one engine,” Riopel said.


Peter Shokeir

About the Author: Peter Shokeir

Peter Shokeir is the publisher and editor of the Jasper Fitzhugh. He has written and edited for numerous publications in Alberta.
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