The pandemic has changed the way people travel, with many planning staycations instead of international travel. While air travel has resumed post-pandemic, a growing number of Calgarians are choosing to stay closer to home. The Alberta Staycation is gaining popularity with a variety of options for those wanting to explore their own backyard and surrounding areas.
The Rimrock Resort Hotel (The Rimrock) in Banff has seen an increase in reservations post-pandemic. General manager Trevor Long says, “We are thankful that our friendly neighbours in Calgary have supported the businesses in Banff and that staycations are an attractive way to enjoy time in your backyard of Banff. Knowing that Calgarians are choosing to stay home and enjoy Banff National Park has benefited our businesses. The Rimrock is a great place to relax with wonderful views and friendly professional service or the exuberance of being an explorer in close proximity to the best attractions in the mountains.”
He adds, “Choosing a staycation is really an amazing opportunity for local Albertans. To have the majestic Rocky Mountains within a couple of hours’ drive is one of the great benefits of living in Calgary. When your backyard is Banff, it is easy to forgo the travel costs of a plane and the long travel times.”
To entice visitors to the area, The Rimrock offers a range of promotions, including 25 per cent off for Albertans and discounts for longer stays. With a quiet and relaxing ambiance, The Rimrock has a range of features, including Eden, Canada’s longest-awarded five-diamond restaurant, and a skating rink during the winter months. The hotel is also located across the street from Banff’s two biggest attractions, the hot springs and gondola.
For those travelling with children, The Rimrock has a range of activities to keep the entire family entertained. During special occasions, such as Christmas and Easter, there are children’s play centres and scavenger hunts. On Family Day and Thanksgiving weekends, The Birds of Prey visit the hotel, allowing families to have close contact with birds and even get a photo with an eagle on their arm. Hiking trails from The Rimrock can take families to downtown Banff or up Sulphur Mountain.
While The Rimrock offers a luxurious staycation option, RV travel and camping are becoming increasingly popular as well. Calgary-based New Age Travel and Services specializes in camper van rentals and provides “The Authentic Van Life Experience.” The company has reported an increase in Albertan staycationers, with more people opting for longer road trip vacations.
Founder Joey Couture says, “Renting an RV has many benefits, including self-sufficiency and the ability to explore remote areas with all the necessities at hand. With RV travel, your hotel and vehicle are combined, meaning anywhere you go, you have all that you need. RV travel also allows for less screen time, leading to more quality present moments.”
He believes that RV vacations provide a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle of life. “We find renters come back from their trips calmer than when they left.”
The cost and convenience of RV travel are also attractive to staycationers. “Budgeting is easier in one’s own currency, and with current exchange rates, travelling outside of Canada is much more expensive than it used to be,” explains Couture.
He adds, “Post-pandemic, lots of travelers want to appreciate and connect more with nature. RV travel allows for an appreciation of what we have in our own backyard, as we explore the natural beauty of our province. We are blessed to have access to the national parks and surrounding areas. Showing our gratitude for the beautiful travel destinations in Alberta is important.”
Approximately 80 per cent of RV renters do the Banff to Jasper loop or vice versa. “These two national parks are well protected areas with a plethora of activities including hiking, canoeing, shopping, restaurants, picnic areas, campfires and waterfalls. Lonely Planet published that the drive between these two destinations on Highway 93 is one of the most ‘epic drives in the world’.”
“Our personal favourite area for views and adventures in the mountains,” says Couture, “is just down Highway 40: Kananaskis and Peter Lougheed Park. You drive down a valley surrounded by trees, mountains and lakes. Taking your camper van or RV means you can stay overnight at a campground and forgo driving back and forth. There are quite a few other parks like Waterton, Yoho and Glacier.”
For those looking to stay in town and close to home, Calgary has much to offer year-round. From top-rated restaurants to world-renowned exhibits, one does not have to go very far to take a break and enjoy life.
Tourism Calgary senior vice president, Marketing Jeff Hessel says, “The pandemic provided an opportunity for locals to explore more of their own city and they have acquired better-than-ever knowledge about what Calgary has to offer for visitors. This is a great thing, because local champions of our destination are also ultimate hosts – and Calgary takes pride in being an ultimate host city. Travellers are continuing to stay closer to home; however, their desire to visit farther destinations is growing.”
Calgary is a fantastic staycation spot with opportunities for all ages to explore the city. Whether it is a family adventure staycation, focus on sports and games, or a luxurious urban oasis, Calgary is the perfect place to find new adventures without having to board a plane.
Hessel says, “Tourism Calgary fosters local and regional awareness and excitement for our city’s experiences, including through our #LoveYYC program, which runs in the fall. Started in 2016, #LoveYYC is an annual event highlighting what Calgarians love about their city. It encourages people to rediscover everything Calgary has to offer and support local.”
In addition, staycations in Calgary truly span the seasons. “We are a vibrant winter city with the annual Chinook Blast festival, and many outdoor opportunities including skiing and tubing at WinSport. Spring is a great time to check out award-winning restaurants and the booming craft beverage scene in Calgary. Our city is becoming widely known for its creative fare and rich local flavours. Summer, of course, is famous for Stampede time, and there are also many other much-loved festivals to check out throughout the season. When fall arrives, Calgary celebrates its growing reputation as a music city, where highlights include the Music Mile and Studio Bell – home of the National Music Centre,” says Hessel.
Not only is there a lot to do in Calgary, but the city is also a fantastic home base to explore the surrounding area. There are spectacular daytrips to be had including 12 national parks and historic sites and six UNESCO World Heritage sites near Calgary. After taking in one of these amazing daytrips, staycationers can return to the city, which offers accommodation options to fit any budget and style.
Hessel encourages Calgarians to explore their city and enjoy all that it has to offer. “Many of our industry partners offer staycation and getaway packages, which encourage people to create their own perfect Calgary experience.”
The Alberta Staycation is an attractive option for people looking to stay closer to home without the hassle of air travel. With the added benefits of supporting local businesses and improving mental health, a staycation may just be the perfect vacation for those looking to escape the stress of daily life while building beautiful memories that will last a lifetime.