As the tourism season is winding down, it appears the valley had a successful season, despite lingering concerns over COVID-19.
On July 1, the Alberta Government opened up restrictions in hopes of a normal summer. Drumheller was a hive of activity, as visitors returned.
Executive Director of the Royal Tyrrell Museum, Lisa Making said, following a year of restricted numbers and online reservations they weren’t sure what to expect. They weren’t disappointed.
“It was incredible. The response was swift from our visitors,” said Making. “From June 10 to August 31 we had more than 235,000 visitors. The Attendance for August 2021, was only slightly below August of 2019. It was a busy summer for our staff, and they did an awesome job.”
“We didn’t know what to expect because the international borders were still closed, so most travel was going to be from Albertans and Canadians. We did have representation from most provinces, but the bulk of it was from Southern Alberta.”
Due to the pandemic, in 2020 the museum went to an exclusive online reservation system. In 2021, they kept the reservation system, but not exclusively.
“We were highly recommending it. We are looking to keep our time ticket service just because it helps us spread the visitors throughout the day. When we are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. the bulk of our visitors in the summertime tend to come between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., so we would really like to find a way to spread that out,” explains Making. “Visitors won’t feel that crunch at mid-day, and they will have a better experience.”
One observation while using the reservation system is it appears to have given other businesses in town a boost.
“I think it has a good impact on the local economy because if somebody is coming into town, and they don’t have tickets to the museum until 3 o’clock, they may go for lunch at a local restaurant, they might poke around some of the local shops before coming out to the museum,” she said. “Shop owners I have spoken with were keen to hear we were keeping the time ticketing.”
One activity that was popular through the pandemic and this summer was camping. Tommy Park of the Hoodoo RV Resort and Campground said the traffic was busy last year at the height of the pandemic, and that continued this year.
“We were full on the weekends, and even the weekdays, It was super busy at the campgrounds,” said Park, adding most visitors were from Alberta.
At Dinosaur Trail Golf Course, Park said they are seeing many visitors bringing their clubs, especially on the weekend. Interestingly, he said last year they were busier.
“Last year was special if you think about it, because (with COVID restrictions) people could only do golf,” said Park.
Upstart Bikes and Bites moved into Badlands Community Facility this year. It offers restaurant fare as well as e-bike rentals, catering to the local and tourism market.
“We have been fortunate in how welcoming the business community has been for a new business, and we were happy to serve plenty of folks with some picnics and some bikes,” said co-owner Lana Philips.
While there has been uptake from local residents on the bikes, they are predominately rented by visitors.
“We have had visitors from across Canada, everywhere from B.C. to as far as Quebec,” said Phillips. “We saw a lot of Canadian tourism where Canadians had the opportunity to travel this summer, so they explored more of their own country.”