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