The Queen Charlotte Visitor Centre had 1,116 visitors between June 1 and 24. (Photo: Kaitlyn Bailey/Haida Gwaii Observer)

The Queen Charlotte Visitor Centre had 1,116 visitors between June 1 and 24. (Photo: Kaitlyn Bailey/Haida Gwaii Observer)

Exponential tourism growth in Haida Gwaii as summer kicks off

Numbers are not back to pre-pandemic levels

The month of June 2022 saw an increase of 1,494 per cent in visits or 1046 people to the Queen Charlotte Visitors Center over the same time in 2021 when there were just 70 visitors.

June shows exponential growth in the tourism industry on Haida Gwaii but is still not back to pre-pandemic numbers.

As of June 24, the Port Clements Museum, which doubles as the community’s visitor centre, had 400 visitors for the month. These numbers reflect similar statistics from 2016, said Brigid Cummings, councillor at the Village of Port Clements. While numbers are not as high as the community saw between 2017 to 2019, they are a significant increase over the past two summers.

The islands were primarily closed to tourists in 2020 and, while they were open in 2021, there were very few BC Ferries sailings which is the main tourist transportation to the remote archipelago.

Cumming believes the decreased visitor numbers over 2017 this year might be because there have been fewer tour buses. In June 2017 and 2019, five to six buses made stops at the Port Clements Museum, whereas there have only been two this year.

The Queen Charlotte Visitors centre is still only about half the number of out-of-towners from 2019 which saw 2,522 people.

The Northern Haida Gwaii Tourist Information Centre in Masset is seeing a similar trend.

“It has still been pretty slow-going so far, but it will likely pick up in the next couple of weeks,” said Brittany Grosse, employee at the Northern Haida Gwaii Tourist Information Centre.

Prior to the pandemic, tourism was a significant contributor to the economy of Haida Gwaii, with $15.8 million spent by more than 30,000 tourists between March 2019 and February 2020, according to a survey conducted by Go Haida Gwaii.

Go Haida Gwaii has not conducted a survey for the past two years.

Representatives from Haida Gwaii recently sent a letter to BC Ferries requesting additional sailings for the 2022 summer to accommodate increased demand, in part related to higher tourism.

“I think people are really wanting to travel. I mean, the tourists are just so happy to be out and about,” Cumming said.

She wouldn’t make a prediction on what’s to come for the rest of the summer.

“It isn’t over until it’s over, and we just won’t know until we get there,” she said.

READ MORE: Haida Gwaii representatives ask BC Ferries for more sailings

RELATED: Canada Day activities in Port Clements


 
Kaitlyn Bailey | Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
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