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Alberta Initiative Could Spur RV Industry

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Two agencies within in the Alberta government laid out a broad plan to grow Canada’s largest provincial tourism market by about 20 percent in the next four years, during an industry conference last week in Banff, Alberta.

Under the plan, the Alberta Parks agency, which manages provincial parks and protected areas, would work alongside the Culture and Tourism ministry to boost tourism spending from $8.3 billion to $10 billion by 2020, the groups announced at the Travel Alberta Industry Conference on Oct. 24. 

The effort includes several initiatives that could prove a windfall for the Alberta RV industry. Specifically, the groups plan to allocate funding to overhaul and develop parks and ease access to public lands for park developers.

“Anytime we can get extra camping inventory, whether its provincial, private, federal, we’re promoting that, so this is a great step,” RVDA of Alberta Executive Vice President Dan Merkowsky said.

The move comes as Canadian retail RV sales have dropped more than 12 percent through August this year, under a weak Canadian dollar and suffering oil and gas industry.

The improvement to parks infrastructure and greater access to public lands could help RV companies in the country’s largest camping province find some relief, according to Merkowsky.

“RVs have gotten a lot bigger, and all these parks were developed in the 1970s, so they’ve slowly but surely been refurbishing, but they (the provincial government groups) understand now, that in order to keep people in Alberta, they have to make these things accessible to everybody,” Merkowsky said.

As a whole, 38 percent of Canadian campers use some type of RV, and in Alberta, which contributes about a third of the country’s RVers as well as campers, more than half of all campers use RVs.

In 2015, Alberta campers spent $762 million directly in the RV retail segment, according to an economic impact study.

The collaboration shows a new level of emphasis from the provincial government on its tourism industry, and follows years of discussions from the RVDA of Alberta, among other groups, who have lobbied the provincial government to invest more resources in the industry.

“We had a new government that came in two years ago, so we got in on the main floor with them and got a really good response,” Merkowsky said.

Merkowsky met with the Deputy Minister of Tourism after the announcement to discuss how RVDA of Alberta can help the groups meet the 20-percent growth mandate. 

“We are looking forward to working with Alberta Parks and Tourism to find new opportunities and locations for future RV developments and investments,” he said. 

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