News Bulletin file

News Bulletin file

Summer mostly sunny for Vancouver Island tourism

European tourists came earlier than normal, says Tourism Vancouver Island

The summer was good for tourism on Vancouver Island, according to those in the industry.

Anthony Everett, chief executive officer with Tourism Vancouver Island, said the summer season was generally positive as a whole, despite a slow start.

“There was a period, earlier in the summer, where there was some uncertainty about where business was going but now we are at a stage where it is strong up and down the Island,” he said.

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Although visitation figures were not provided, Everrett said the majority of visitors to to the mid-Island region were from Washington, California, Oregon, Alberta and Europe.

“It has been one of those years where it has been a little bit harder for us to get a handle on things,” he said. “But overall everyone is satisfied with how business has been.”

Everett said the majority of the province benefited this season because there weren’t major issues with wildfire smoke filling the skies. He also said the mid-Island region also saw more European tourists come earlier on in the summer.

Everett said he isn’t sure why Europeans, particularly Germans, came earlier in the summer than normal, but believes the potential for wildfires later on the summer might have been a contributing factor.

“I have no research to back that up, but my own sense is that could be a contributing factor and I think that is a fair observation,” he said. People that dream to come to Canada from Germany, they are very particular and they plan way out and are able to modify their bookings.”

Jilann Campbell, owner of Nanaimo-based Vancouver Island Whale Watch, which began operations last year, said her company had a great summer.

“This was our second season, so we had more bookings than we had the first year,” she said. “In terms of wildlife sightings, it was unparalleled. It was great. We saw whales on over 90 per cent of our excursions, with some days even seeing more than one species of whales.”

Campbell said they had visitors from everywhere, with the bulk coming from Europe and North America. She said the majority of North Americans came from outside of British Columbia while the majority of Europeans were from Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

“It was pretty much all over the place,” she said.

Some operators fared better than others, however, according to Everett.

“It has been mixed results. Hotels are up, B.C. Ferries is kind of stable but Nanaimo airport traffic is considerably up while Victoria airport is down a bit,” he said. “If you look at the significant business, some of them are down and some of them are up. I’ve never seen that before.”

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Everett said global economic uncertainty stemming from an ongoing trade dispute between the United States and China and fears of a potential recession is having an impact on tourism, but he isn’t sure to what degree.

“I couldn’t say [how much of an impact] but I’ve been doing this a long time and my view is that geo-political forces do have an impact on travel and fears of a recession do have an impact on travel,” he said, adding that tourism trends tend to follow a country’s gross domestic product.

However, despite the uncertainty, Everett said the consensus among tourism operators is that 2019 will turn out to be a positive year.

“Overall, they are thinking this is a good year and this has been one of the better years that we have had,” he said. 
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