CALGARY — A perky brunette’s quest to find the sweetheart of her dreams on an American reality television show could translate into a multimillion dollar windfall for Alberta’s struggling tourism industry.
On Monday’s episode of The Bachelorette, Vancouver interior designer Jillian Harris catches the Bachelorette passenger train to Lake Louise and Banff, where iconic scenery will share prime-time exposure with a bevy of hunky contestants.
Fans can expect to see Harris nosh on fondue in Lake Louise before heading to Banff where one of her suitors will be handed a rose and eliminated from the game in the Cascade Ballroom of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.
It’s the sort of exposure money can’t buy, say local tourism officials, who hope the show will bring awareness to Alberta at a time when bookings are down during the normally busy peak summer season.
“That kind of endorsement is critical in our economy today,” said Lori Bayne, a spokeswoman for Banff-Lake Louise Tourism.
The slumping economy is starting to take its toll: Banff National Park, for example, saw visitors decline by almost 15 per cent in March compared to the same period in 2008. The situation is even worse in Jasper, where park traffic fell by more than 21 per cent.
Industry officials hope The Bachelorette will do for Alberta what it did for British Columbia, the location of the two previous episodes.
Vancouver’s tourism website saw a 25 per cent bump in traffic after viewers took in shots of Granville Island, Grouse Mountain and the Vancouver harbour. There were nearly a dozen references to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics during the back-to-back shows, with fans clamouring to buy an Olympics-themed hoodie Harris wore at a local curling club.
Five years ago, Calgary and Banff were in the spotlight when the Emmy-award winning reality TV show The Amazing Race shot 30 hours of footage in the area.
The experience also proved a boon for Sunshine Village, which was featured prominently in the episode. The ski hill said web traffic and telephone inquiries spiked by about 25 per cent immediately after the show aired.
“We really enjoyed the impact for the rest of the ski season. People saw the segment and said ‘Sunshine Village is in Banff, I have to go there,” said spokesman Doug Firby.
“You just don’t believe the power a program like that can have until you see the interest that comes right after it is broadcast.”
Harris — Canada’s first Bachelorette and a native of Peace River, Alta, — has already helped promote the province’s single biggest attraction.
Last month, she confessed on the ABC television series that she is a country girl at heart who “does the Calgary Stampede” every year, much to the delight of event organizers who revelled in the unexpected — and free — promotion.