Buffalo Plains campground in Alberta

Buffalo Plains campground in Alberta

While hotels and motels in Alberta struggled with declining numbers this year, campground and RV park operators were busy, according to the Calgary Herald.

For Sue Gyonyor, who runs the Buffalo Plains RV Park and Campground near Fort Macleod with her husband, 2009 was probably their busiest summer yet.

Those filling the 31 sites and some of their unserviced overflow lot mostly came from within the province but were staying longer than usual, she said.

“We have noticed a lot more people coming from Calgary, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge–and coming to stay four or five (nights) or even a week,” he said.

The family campground near saw travelers from Switzerland, Germany and France, but had fewer making the trip from the United States, New Zealand and Australia.

Gyonyor was expecting a good summer given the year started with more reservations than usual.

“I didn’t expect it to be as good as it was. It was better than expected,” she said.

The global recession was the most significant factor in the drop in overall tourism numbers, according to a recent report by the Alberta Tourism Department, but there was some relief from the Travel Alberta “Stay” campaign, according to Tourism Calgary’s COO Alden Wells.

The strategy had been in the works for a number of years, but the timing of the campaign–encouraging Albertans to explore their own province– did help, Wells said.

Travel Alberta’s new CEO said a lot of people living in the province did just as the ads suggested. “It was beyond our wildest dreams,” Bruce Okabe said of the campaign.

Tourism operators now casting an eye to the future are hoping to see some ripple effect from the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Okabe said they hope to encourage visitors who want to see more of the country after coming for the games, and those tourists trying to avoid the spectacle altogether.

“We will see the Olympic aversion effect at Whistler-Blackcomb in the months of January to March because everyone has the impression it will be expensive, closed or busy,” he said.

The hope is those looking to ski or snowboard will turn to Nakiska, Sunshine, Lake Louise and other Alberta hills instead.

In addition, Alberta will have a presence at the games in an effort to boost visitor numbers.

“We’ll be using the Olympic Games to show the province to its advantage,” Okabe said.