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Not just flat: What tourism means to Saskatchewan

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April 15-19 has been proclaimed as Tourism Week in Saskatchewan by the province as nationally Canada’s tourism industry is also recognized.

In Saskatchewan tourism generates over $2.4 billion in yearly spending and employs close to 71,000 people.

Tourism Saskatchewan CEO Jonathan Potts said the week is an opportunity to highlight all there is to see and do in Saskatchewan as well as recognize all those who are employed in the industry.

“It’s a big industry and we actually punch a little bit above our weight in the country,” Potts said. “It’s (tourism spending) everything from the attractions people visit, private and public, from business to parks to hotels and restaurants and so forth.”

Potts said tourism is a large economic driver in the province and something that has seen substantial growth in the past few years following the pandemic.

“The growth is coming from lots of different places, right now our American visitors are really coming back, so we saw a 54 per cent increase last year in rubber tire traffic, people driving across the border to come to Saskatchewan,” Potts said.

There was also a 46 per cent increase in air traffic from the U.S., according to Potts.

“We’re also seeing really strong supports from people in Alberta, Manitoba and other parts of Canada as well,” he said.

Potts said preconceived notions that Saskatchewan is just flat land can make things more challenging for tourism, but he also recognized that many people are unaware of Saskatchewan’s landscape which can make bringing people here easier.

“When you’re dealing with people that don’t know it as well it’s not as hard and there’s lots of amazing experiences here,” Potts said.

Potts said the tourism industry is focusing on attractions like astro-tourism, which is gazing at the vast night skies that can be seen across the province.

“Saskatchewan is a great place for that so we’re finding markets across North America and beyond that love the idea of coming here for those things,” Potts said.

Potts said hunting and fishing remain big attractions.

“Hunting licences to Americans grew about 30 per cent last year,” he said.

Potts added that 2024 is expected to be another busy year for tourism and another year of growth.

“We expect that the domestic markets Saskatchewan residents will probably want to stick around with dollars a little tighter these days, but we still expect that strong U.S. market to come in and we’re starting to see our over seas visitors return as well.”

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