COVID-19 takes 15% bite out of Banff visitation, more than 50% from hotels

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But for Banff merchants, there’s been no upside to the dearth of foreign tourists that comprise 50 per cent of the town’s visitors during the summer.

“It’s been horrible, terrible,” said the owner of one souvenir shop, who didn’t want his name used.

“Most of the people coming are from Calgary or Edmonton, and they’re not buying souvenirs and gifts.”

Several Banff businesses, he said, have been shuttered, and given that his sales have dropped by 65 per cent, his would have as well if it weren’t for federal aid.

At least one hotel’s voice message said it had suspended operations “to ensure the safety of guests and staff.”

Other hoteliers say they’ve dropped their rates due to tumbling demand and have reduced capacity to ensure physical distancing.

The deserted lobby at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel on April 16, 2020. The 132-year-old hotel ceased operations temporarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The deserted lobby at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel on April 16, 2020. Photo by Marie Conboy/Postmedia.

Mounties ticketing several Americans for being in breach of COVID-19 restrictions by vacationing in Banff has become a symbol of the country’s sealed borders.

Kentucky resident John Pennington is facing a fine of more than $500,000 for violating that ban twice while staying in the town.

Peter Dubeau said the Banff hotel he manages refused some potential American customers earlier in the summer.

“We turned away a couple of those who didn’t appear to be quarantining, we told them to go away,” said Dubeau, with the Moose Hotel and Suites.

But he said the industry hopes that’s not necessary for much longer, with some hotels in his chain down to 50 per cent occupancy this summer — a number that’s now considered high.

“We’re no longer at the one per cent occupancy, which we were at in April and May,” he said.

“But the lengths of stays are much shorter than they used to be and the rates are lower.”

Banff National Park, the nation’s first, has in recent years attracted more than four million visitors a year — far exceeding any other in Canada.

Though the overall numbers of tourists are down, Canadian visitors continue to clog the park’s main natural attractions.

“We recommend our guests get up to Moraine Lake at 5 a.m.,” said Dubeau.

BKaufmann@postmedia.com

Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

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