After months of slow sales amid the pandemic's public-health restrictions, hotels and restaurants saw a boost in the last couple of weeks, according to new data from Moneris, an electronic payment-processing firm.
Spending at Calgary hotels during the Stampede was up 90 per cent compared to last year, while restaurants and bars in the city saw an increase of 51 per cent.
The data is based on debit and credit card transactions.
"What this did show us is what coming back to life could look like," said Cindy Ady, CEO of Tourism Calgary.
The numbers are still down in comparison with 2019, the last time the Stampede was held, but Ady said that's not the point.
"The exercise was bringing it back to life and creating as safe of a place as you possibly could do," she said. "And I think [the Stampede] did a really good job of that."
The increased spending, she said, "was a major win for the industry as it tries to get back on its feet."
Rebound across the province
The increase in spending wasn't limited to Calgary; hotel spending across Alberta was up 42 per cent compared to the same period in 2020.
At that time last summer, the province was in Stage 2 of its initial reopening plan, after the first wave of public-health restrictions were implemented the previous spring, and active-case counts of COVID-19 in Alberta were similar to what they've been over the past few weeks.
"Tourism is rebounding within the province," said Marta Rzeszowska, the director of product and payment solutions and retail solutions at Moneris.
"Calgarians, visitors, Albertans were definitely flocking back to bars and restaurants to be able to spend time with family, friends and be able to get out again, which was really good."
Rzeszowska said anything entertainment-related — like beer and wine tours, concert halls and amusement parks — saw very high spending compared to last year, when more restrictions were in place.
Amusement parks, for example, saw an increase of 1,286 per cent compared to 2020.
Rzeszowska said the spending data shows a renewed appreciation for outdoor entertainment spaces
"Everybody's looking to do something happy and healthy and really be able to take advantage of what's nearby and local," she said. "We are seeing a rebound in these types of entertainment venues."
A regular tourist season might not happen for some time still, Rzeszowska said, but the spending will likely continue if the public-health situation doesn't change.
"People have been holding off on spending for the last few months and are now getting an opportunity and they're getting outdoors," said Rzeszowska. "We are forecasting that we are going to continue to see this type of spending, especially throughout the rest of the summer."
On Friday, Alberta Health reported 799 active cases of COVID-19 across the province, marking an increase of 123 active cases compared to the day before.
Most of the active cases are in the Calgary Zone, which includes the city and surrounding communities.