Those who watch tourism numbers closely in our region say 2016 is shaping up to be better than 2015 — and that was a record year for many operators.
The numbers available from the first four months of the year show occupancy rates at hotels, motels, etc. were up 13 per cent from 2015 and the all-important revenue per available room stat shows a 37 per cent increase, said Blain Sepos, executive director of the Parksville Qualicum Beach Tourism Association.
Looking forward for the rest of 2016, Sepos said he’s hearing from a number of hotel members who say they are entering a month already having made their budgets because of all the bookings they have.
“The common view is that because our dollar is weak, Canadians aren’t travelling to the States, they are coming here instead, but I’m not sure that’s entirely the case,” said Sepos, pointing to the fact the loonie is about the same value now compared to the greenback as it was in May or June, 2015.
Still, Sepos said some less scientific indicators point to the fact Canadians are spending their money here rather than south of the border, said Sepos.
“We’ve seen a lot of red plates (Albertans),” he said. “We’re cheaper than going to the States or Bahamas.”
Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce executive director Kim Burden said he is also hearing good-year stories.
“Every business that I have spoken to in that sector, and I’ve talked to a lot of them, everyone is up over last year and last year was a good year,” said Burden. “It’s a phenomena.”
Burden said 6,000 people have stopped in the visitor’s centre at the chamber in 2016. That’s double the number over the same period last year, he said.
The B.C. government reports that the number of international visitors to the province went over the million mark for the first few months of 2016.
From January to April, 1,172,637 visitors came to B.C. resulting in an 18.2 per cent increase over the same period last year, according to a news release.
B.C. experienced growth in international overnight entries from some of its key markets in April over the same month in 2015, including:
• Germany up 33.4 per cent.
• China up 32.9 per cent.
• South Korea up 31.9 per cent.
• Mexico up 28 per cent.