Tourist season slightly better

  • Oct. 17, 2013 12:00 p.m.

by Jane Wilson–There were more tourists on the islands this year than last, but whether they spent more money remains to be seen. BC Ferries saw more traffic on its Prince Rupert to Skidegate route with 7,170 vehicles and 16,615 passengers arriving here in June, July and August, slightly up from the same period in 2012 when 6,471 vehicles and 15,501 passengers arrived. The increase was not reflected in a large improvement in tourist business, said many local business operators. Fritz Engelhard, owner of Engelhard’s Oceanview Lodge in Masset said business was good this summer, but said he’s found business pretty steady the last three years, and although his business is strong year-round, this was a very strong and long season. “There was definitely an upturn,” he said, “maybe because the weather was unusually good.” Joy LaFortune, owner of Joy’s Campground in Queen Charlotte said business was a little better than last year, which was terrible. “It’s the best year we’ve had weather-wise in forever,” she said, “but the weathermen don’t promote our good weather, people in Vancouver think it rains here all the time.” Lorette Smillie from Smillie’s Bed and Breakfast in Port Clements said her numbers were up, but thinks it’s possible there were more campers this year. “It was better this year, I had extra business in the spring and so my season was longer too.” “Compared to last year, this year, anecdotally without any hard numbers, I found quite a few more people on bikes camping and/or hitchhikers, people with no vehicles whatsoever,” said Port’s Sunset Park campground attendant Christina Stupka. She didn’t know about the fees collected, but said it was a steadier year than last, with far fewer nights empty. Harmonie Blais, owner of Harmonie’s Café in Port, said she saw more tourists than last year, but they weren’t spending as much money. “We only have last summer to compare,” she said, “but we didn’t make as much money, and that’s probably due to how the tourists were spending, we definitely got a lot of people on their bicycles needing refills on their water bottles.” While she’s seen fewer tourist dollars this year she believes she getting more locals starting to come in to the café, “I think it balances out,” she said. Some business operators saw no improvement. Jackie Jones from the Sea Raven Motel in Queen Charlotte said business was on par with 2011, maybe a little worse and Andrew Merilees, Agate Beach Campground operator, said visitor numbers to the campground were down a little overall. “There’s been a downward trend every year,” he said, “but this year was more pronounced.” He said he has heard from bed and breakfast operators that they had quite a good season, and hypothesized that the increase in ferry traffic may be due to the pole raising in August. The Queen Charlotte Visitor Information Centre had 8,625 visitors for June, July, and August, slightly down from the 8,924 visitors last year. In Sandspit, the Visitor Info Centre saw more traffic, with 6,330 visitors in June, July, and August this year, 5,732 in 2012. Masset’s Visitor Centre was not able to provide a comparison. The tourist season 2013. The trend appears to be moving in the right direction.