By Al Beeber on July 24, 2021.
He first came to love Alberta while spending a month with his brother and relatives in Edmonton when he was 14.
Now David Goldstein is on a mission to boost tourism in in the province.
Goldstein was named Chief Executive Officer of Travel Alberta late last year and the new Calgarian sees enormous potential in the province.
He calls his travels around the the province the “Summer of Love” tour and he loves what he sees, including in Lethbridge.
“We’ve been waiting for the restrictions to come down so we can go out going around the province, meeting with operators, working with operators,” Goldstein said in an interview Thursday at Fort Whoop-Up.
Goldstein feels the expansion of the Lethbridge Exhibition has enormous potential to attract agri-food tourism with events bringing international travellers to the city.
“I’m very excited about the new expansion to the Ex,” said Goldstein who was at the sod-turning.
“I think that’s going to be a huge international draw for agri-food events, conferences, trade shows. There’s some nice hotel stock in this town. You’re blessed with the basics here and I do see a nice path to recovery over the next couple of years. And I think when that pavilion is done, we’re going to see some really interesting business travel to Lethbridge we may not have seen before.”
The Alberta government, he said, is also committed to promoting Indigenous tourism and is investing $4 million over three years with the Indigenous Tourism Association of Alberta, an investment he feels will also help draw international visitors.
“It’s really important from an international competition perspective,” said Goldstein.
Goldstein began his work with Travel Alberta last November, coming to Alberta with much experience in tourism and media.
His resume includes nearly five years spent as president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada and he helped develop the federal tourism strategy. He also spent 14 years in media, some of that time serving as senior Vice President of of CTV Globemedia, now known as Bell Media and was VP of Government and Regulatory Affairs at CHUM Limited.
A focus of Tourism Alberta as borders open will be on the winter season.
In the meantime, he believes tourism in Alberta is on the road to recovery. In his travels, he’s seen many out-of-province licence plates.
“I think the good news is the domestic demand within Alberta has been actually quite good. And we’re starting to see relatively high occupancy rates for hotels in parts of the province,” he said. The hotel he stayed in here had 97 per cent occupancy.
“There’s a lot of domestic travel, mostly families travelling. There’s a lot of pent-up demand,” said the Ontario native.
Before COVID hit, Goldstein said 50 per cent of tourism in Alberta was done by Albertans, with 20-25 per cent of visitors coming from other provinces. The other 25 per cent were international travellers, which he says “of course are the highest spending travellers,” he said.
“That’s the segment we’re really missing this summer and so it’s very good news that at least we have a path to opening the border and we may be able to catch the last sort of essence of the summer season. But overall as Travel Alberta we’re really going to start focusing on the winter and inviting particularly Americans and other Canadians to spend their winter holidays here, including the ski business,” he said.
“I think this summer is going to be OK, it was really important that the Alberta government set out a series of thresholds and plans so we had some assurance, based on vaccination rates, that the province would open up July 1 and so that’s been really important just for families planning to get out,” Goldstein said.
“I think markets like this part of the province are disproportionally benefiting from that because it’s one skip further than a staycation,” said Goldstein, adding that Travel Alberta defines tourism as trips more than 40 kilometres away from home.
“It’s nice to see Albertans moving about the province, it’s really nice to see them supporting these local businesses. Our surveys tell us that maybe 25-30 per cent of Alberta tourism businesses weren’t going to make it through COVID so it’s been pretty devastating. But Albertans are really rallying around Alberta and that’s great to see. And hopefully as flights start to come back and as the tour operators start working again, as the borders open, we’ll start to see more of that U.S. and international clientele come back.”
Destination Canada has been tracking visitor sentiment across the country over the last 14-15 months and Alberta has always scored the highest in the country as Albertans being receptive to visitors, he said.
“I like to say we’re the most welcoming people in Canada,” Goldstein said.
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