Summer weather hotter than tourist season

  • Nov. 4, 2009 5:00 p.m.

By Alex Rawlings–Although last summer was one of the hottest, sunniest and driest on record, fewer tourists were here to enjoy it, according to statistics from the Queen Charlotte visitor centre. Visitor centre manager Franc Pridoehl said the total number of visitors this year was down about 15 percent compared to last year. “We did see a slight rebound in August, though that month also saw less visitors then last year,” Mr. Pridoehl said. “It definitely wasn’t our worst year. but it wasn’t our best. If there is any reason for it, it is because there were far less American tourists this year because of the recession.” BC Ferries’ numbers echo much the same trend, with ridership falling by about 7 percent on northern routes this year. At the Masset village office, chief financial officer Jo-Ann Brown said it was difficult for some tourists to get here or leave after crab trap tangles cancelled several ferry sailings in August. Despite that, she heard that campgrounds and other accommodations had a good season. Masset’s brand new visitor info centre building recorded 1,383 tourists between June and August, Ms Brown said. “Everybody had questions about what was in the area, we just directed them to places of interest,” said Marg Youngson administrative assistant at the village of Masset. “There were questions about Rennell Sound, and back roads to Queen Charlotte City. I am not sure what they were expecting to see,” she said, “maybe just an adventure.” The word from Masset was that “overall (the tourist season) was really good,” Michael McQuade of the Surf Shop told us. “We had a lot of traffic, a broad demographic; families, young people and some Europeans. People were really interested in info about activities on the island.”However, the lower numbers this year aren’t a reflection of the overall trend the islands are experiencing. According to the numbers, since 2000, Visitor Centre visits have increased by 65 percent, and vacation lengths are normally one week with no major change over the past 10 years. This year, 40 percent of visitors were from BC, 20 percent from the rest of Canada, 15 percent from the USA, 15 percent from Europe, 5 percent from Asia, and 5 percent from elsewhere. In the past ten years, European numbers have increased by about 30 percent, while the number of visitors from the US and the rest of Canada are down slightly. It appears that Europeans are gaining a greater “market” share according to Mr. Pridoehl. But “we get a lot of positive remarks. We had such good weather this summer…people like the tranquility here; things settle right down…hiking, camping, sea kayaking and nature watching are the predominant activities, and there are core groups (of tourists) interested in Haida culture and arts…people know what they want when they get here” Mr. Pridoehl said. In Tlell, Dutes Dutheil said “people put in a lot of effort to get here…too bad the ferry broke down, we lost time, we lost business.” Mr. Dutheil is co-owner of the Crystal Cabin Gallery. He also said that the season was still really busy and he’s looking forward to next year noting that “(he) met so many people…first class tourists, people love this place.” If nothing else, the 2009 tourist season was an interesting one for the islands. There were RV mishaps, ferry breakdowns, and tourists who couldn’t “find the roads to Gwaii Hanaas,” but all in all, the season was successful according to most people we spoke to. “It was interesting, there was a rolled-over RV that we managed to right, and we had to drive a stranded kid to Skidegate, he had broken his bike, and needed to get to the ferry. He had no rain gear in the pouring rain, his mother called the Village Office and asked us to help. He said everyone was so nice and he would come back.” Heather Nelson-Smith of Port Clements told us. Also, the Sunset RV Park and Campground had a great season according to Ms Nelson-Smith who said the campground made about $500 last year in July and August, and this year saw a noticeable increase to $700. “We noticed a lot more tourists (in Port) this year, mostly cyclists and kayakers, and we met some really wonderful people.” she said.When asked what the most common comments from visitors were she said that “well, we have been to Tow Hill but not North Beach, or we have found that Rogers doesn’t work,” but nonetheless, “we had lots of positive responses,” she said.