The lifeblood of the Drumheller Valley, especially during the summer months, is the steady flow of tourists who come from around the world to experience the badlands of Alberta.
Whether it be a short trip from Calgary or a longer holiday, tourists pump money into the community by purchasing food, souvenirs, accommodations, and attending the local attractions.
This past summer some attractions were hard hit, while others resisted and even flourished despite the gloomy economic situation.
“For the summer, we were down six percent when compared to last year,” said Leanna Mohan, Marketing and Media Coordinator of the Royal Tyrrell Museum. “However, over the past few years we’ve been seeing increases to attendance.”
When asked why there was such a decrease she cited the cold weather in the early part of the summer season.
But numbers are on the rise during the autumn. “In September the weather has been great, and we’ve seen a three percent increase compared to last year.”
Another factor for the decline in attendance over the summer could also be the lack of any new exhibits. The newest exhibit was unveiled near the beginning of 2010.
Some, like Reptile World experienced a similar pattern, with lower attendance during July and August, but a boom during September.
However, the decrease experienced by some attractions does not seem to have impacted others.
The Homestead Museum saw no significant change in the number of tourists during July and August, and has seen an increase in the number of international visitors.
The Atlas Coal Mine continues to grow. “As of the end of August we’ve seen about a six percent increase to our numbers over 2010,” said Linda Digby. “We especially have had an increase in the number of school groups.”
Part of the mine opened this year and Digby highlighted that “word of mouth buzz has been important for us, we’ve created new programs and do them well.”
Increase in attendance at some attractions is thought to have been due to joint marketing initiatives encouraging tourists to come to the Drumheller valley and stay longer.
“The message we’re sending is come to Drumheller and spend some time, and I think we’re starting to see some results from that,” said Digby.
The Atlas Coal Mine was not the only attraction to entice more visitors. The Canadian Badlands Passion Play had record breaking attendance this year.
The tourism situation in the Drumheller Valley is not clear cut. Between the economic woes and dreary weather early in the summer some attractions were stung by lower turnouts. Visitation in others continued to swell.
The goal for all attractions will be to take the momentum generated by higher autumn attendance through the winter and on to next summer.