NDP call for in-province travel rebate to boost tourism

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley called on the UCP government to introduce the one-time, 20 per cent rebate on travel costs

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A rebate for Albertans who take their summer vacations within the province could be a vital boost for Alberta’s struggling tourism industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, the NDP Opposition say.

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley called on the UCP government to introduce the tourism voucher, which would allow families to obtain a one-time, 20 per cent rebate on travel costs, including accommodations, food and drink, rentals and parking.

“Before COVID-19, we know Albertans spent about $7 billion per year on travel outside of Alberta. This year, we want to give them a reason to spend it here,” Notley said, speaking to the Bow Valley Chamber of Commerce Wednesday.

“The Rockies are the ultimate staycation and this kind of investment could have a significant impact.”

The program would cost about $30 million if introduced in Alberta, the NDP estimated.

Notley said she believed Albertans are looking to their own backyard for vacations, rather than heading to tropical destinations.

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Similar initiatives have already been introduced in other provinces.

In Ontario, residents of the province who vacation in Ontario are eligible for a non-refundable tax credit of up to $1,000. New Brunswick, meanwhile, introduced a program last summer for 20 per cent rebates on in-province holidays up to $1,000. There, more than 25,000 applications were filed, claiming upwards of $17 million.

In Alberta’s 2021 budget, released late February, the province allocated an extra $22 million in funding to tourism in the province, aiming to help the sector, which has been reeling from public health restrictions on travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The industry’s return to a pre-pandemic normal depends heavily on worldwide vaccine distribution and travel restrictions.

“Even if a decent amount of Albertans get their first shot by the end of June, tourism will not be what it once was this year,” Notley said. “COVID is going to have a long-term impact on the travel plans of Canadians, and indeed the entire world. International tourism will be down, likely significantly.”

According to a recent Conference Board of Canada projection, overnight visits to Alberta will not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024.

— With files from Stephanie Babych


Twitter: @jasonfherring

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