Less than a week to go before Calgary Stampede, officials say the event will be much different

The Calgary Stampede is going ahead on schedule this month, but guests and businesses are expected to notice a marked difference between this year's event and the last one, held prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Officials say they've implemented a plan filled with enhanced sanitization procedures, distancing between guests and other health measures to protect against potential outbreaks.

The event will also show how Calgarians are accepting the new reality of fewer health restrictions, tourism officials say.

"It’s going to be interesting to see because everyone is still finding their level of comfort with the restrictions being lifted and with the things and their vaccinations," said Cassandra McAuley, vice-president of communications and stakeholder engagement with Tourism Calgary.

City hotels, which would typically be 90 per cent booked by now, are seeing a much different scenario right now.

However, it is still higher than it was earlier this year.

"We're probably going to average around 39 to 42 per cent on average in the city," says Mark Wilson, general manager and vice-president of the Hotel Arts Group.

'LITTLE ON THE FENCE'

Meanwhile, some Calgarians who have made trips to the midway a part of their summer tradition for their families are not too sure they will take part this year.

"Just complete lock down for year and a half and then all of a sudden do a huge event? I just think it's a little too soon," said Abbie Daley.

"I'm a little on the fence to be honest," said Maddy Robinson. "I really, really, really like Stampede food, but I'm not sure with what's going on with the culture right now (or) if it's the right decision."

Other Calgarians are convinced that health guidelines are in place and will help.

"I think it's a really good idea, it’s so intrinsically a part of Calgary culture," said Abdul Abbas. "Should the safety protocols be taken, which seems like they are."

Despite the reluctance of some residents, businesses are still holding out hope that the Stampede will play it's part in Calgary's recovery, no matter how many times the turnstiles spin.

"There is a lot of opportunity for locals to support tourism in Calgary and that will be critical for the tourism sector going forward," said Ruhee Ismail-Teja, acting director of communications for the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

"It will be a quieter summer than normal but we also have a lot more Calgarians who are staying put."

The Calgary Stampede runs from July 9 to 18.

(With files from Kathy Le)