If you are planning a trip to Banff this summer you had better be prepared for crowds because the park is bracing for an increase in tourism over the summer for Canada’s 150th birthday.
Expedia.ca expects Canadians will be doing a lot of their vacationing in their backyard — especially in tourist hotspots like Banff National Park.
Manager of Visitor Experience Greg Danchuk says the park has been preparing for an increase in tourism and traffic since the federal government made it easier to enjoy national parks.
Canada Parks Pass
One reason that national parks may see an increase in traffic is due to the fact that Canada Parks released a Canada Discovery Pass. The passes allow individuals or groups that are travelling together free entry into a national park. The passes are valid in all national parks from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2017.
“With 2017 being the 150th anniversary for Canadian Confederation and that National Parks are free for entry, we anticipate that there will be an increase,” says Danchuk
“Over the last five years we have been averaging about a five per cent increase and we would expect that would continue regardless of the free entry. Now, will there be more? We are prepared for more.”
Danchuk wants people to arrive at the park with the expectation that it will be busy. The solution to easing frustrations with the crowds is that “we need to provide them with information that if a certain location is busy, then maybe come at a different time.”
The Banff National Park has launched a website that will provide people with live updates on busy locations at different times of day.
Banff National Park is anticipating that the tourist hotspots will include Lake Louise, Johnston Canyon and Lake Minnewanka. Transit systems have been put in place to get people to and from some of these popular locations.
Danchuk urges people to take transit. “That is a big plus, we feel — it is an environmentally friendly approach — less cars on the highway and less cars [in the park].”
A bus link between Calgary and Banff was launched June 17 and will continue throughout the summer until Sept. 4. The transit will run on weekends and holidays, with 10 buses leaving from Calgary and 13 returning. The idea is to give people an incentive to leave their vehicles at home.
On-It Regional Transit offers two bus stops in Calgary that will bring you to and from Banff National Park. Check out their website for more information on bus schedules and locations.
“That will be $10 per person — quite affordable we hope.”
Along with the buses to and from Calgary, affordable transit within the park will be available. Most transit is only a few dollars or free to get around the National Park. Free transit from Banff to Minnewanka will allow campers and others to leave their cars and and help reduce traffic.
As well, shuttles between Lake Louise and Banff will take off hourly starting at 7 a.m. and ending at 6 p.m. From the overflow parking at Lake Louise there will also be shuttle that will take people to the upper lake — another free transit option.
“You can get just about anywhere if you take transit,” says Danchuk.
Booking a hotel
In a statement to the Calgary Journal, Expedia.ca said, “with our low Canadian dollar, more Canadians are looking to travel domestically this year. In Alberta, Calgary and Banff have experienced an increase in hotel bookings and are showing to be more popular this year for travellers.”
Over a month before Canada’s July 1 birthday, Expedia.ca showed that more than 90 per cent of hotels and resorts had been booked for the Canada Day weekend. The next weekend — July 7 to July 9 — also sees a lot of sold out hotels.
Skipping ahead, the trend continues in August where a lot of places are already booked through until the end of summer. Rooms are still available but in very low quantities. On Expedia.ca most places are showing that they are either sold out or in high demand.
Popular hotel locations, such as the Fairmont Banff Springs, are looking forward to welcoming guests coming into the park for Canada 150. A representative from the Fairmont, Tara Gaucher, said, “Summer is traditionally a busy time in the destination as we see an abundance of tour guests and leisure travellers in and around Banff.”
The Fairmont is looking to accommodate guests and others who want to “to enjoy all the amenities at our resort beyond spending the night.”
On Expedia.ca, the Fairmont is currently sold out for Canada Day weekend and at many other times throughout the summer.
“We are prepared to provide people with opportunities to have great experiences,” says Danchuk.
- By Nathan Woolridge