On November 24th, Mr. Blake Richards, Banff-Airdrie MP and Official Opposition Critic for Tourism spoke to Parliament in the House of Commons regarding the importance of tourism and visitor experience to the economy of Canada’s Rocky Mountain parks. Mr. Richards highlighted the need for welcoming visitors into meaningful, positive and accessible experiences in the National Parks. He also called on the government to pursue and support a logistical plan to help communities like Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise address traffic congestion and parking issues that will likely occur on peak visitation days when Park entry is free of charge in 2017.  

AMPPE was pleased to hear Mr. Richards address his fellow MPs last week in representing the current and future interests of all stakeholders within his riding of Banff National Park. It was particularly important to impart how significant the tourism industry is here in economic contribution, representing up to 89% of the region’s GDP. Stakeholders within Canada’s Rocky Mountain Parks are also proven world leaders in prioritizing ecological integrity – in conjunction with visitor experience, education, culture and sustainable tourism. AMPPE strongly advocates for a balance of these pillars on behalf of our membership and in partnership with Parks Canada. On behalf of our members I thank Mr. Richards for representing our interests and increasing awareness of the importance of this region to both Alberta’s economy and Canada’s reputation as a world class destination. 

I also appreciated that Mr. Richards brought up some of the significant challenges that will impact visitors and our ability to provide a world-class experience for those that choose Banff and the surrounding areas as a destination next year. Allowing free access to Canada’s Parks in 2017 is truly a great gift to Canadians and international guests, however there are specific regional implications that need to be addressed in that visitor numbers will likely exceed the four million mark to Banff and Jasper National Parks. These implications include increased vehicle congestion in 2017, continued hospitality labour shortages, delayed access to sites and attractions, the need for environmentally friendly transit opportunities and ongoing infrastructure maintenance. AMPPE looks forward to working together with our members, partners and Government representatives to find solutions to these in order to further the sustainability of world class experiences in Canada’s Rocky Mountain Parks.

Mr. Richards speech can be found on our website.