Emily Vance photo In addition to the Quality Foods Sand Sculpting Competition and Exhibition, the Parksville Beach Festival hosts a number of events throughout July and August.

Parksville Beach Festival attendance down slightly compared last year

Slow start, cooler weather in July may to be blame

Attendance at the Parksville Beach Festival is down by 8 or 9 per cent compared to this time last year, says festival president Cheryl Dill.

As of Monday, Aug. 5, the festival has had approximately 75,000 people walking through the gates in 2019. That’s compared to about 83,000 people for the same time last year.

“We’re not really concerned, it’s probably a reflection of a number of things,” said Dill. “We always try to guess what that might be.”

Dill’s primary speculation is that cooler weather in July prompted less foot traffic to the outdoor venue. The festival tracks weather alongside foot traffic through the gates.

“I think [it’s] the weather being a little bit cooler, and a little bit of rain,” said Dill. “There was one day when we had less than 1,000, and typically our average day is about 2,600 to 3,000 people through the gate.”

However, Beach Festival has potential to make up those numbers.

“Things can change. August is a warmer month typically, and a lot of people are just so busy in July with a number of commitments … so we often see a slight increase in attendance in the last couple weeks of our event,” said Dill.

Last year’s numbers were down as well from the previous year (2017) by about 17%. It’s likely that decline is tied to weather events as well. The summer of 2018 in British Columbia saw heavy smoke from wildfires impacting air quality and prompting many to spend more time indoors.

On the bright side for Beach Festival, the average donation is up this year. The suggested donation at the gate is $4, but people are welcome to donate more if they feel.

“That helps. So in terms of trying to recover the event expenses, we’re grateful that the donations have been on the rise,” said Dill.

The NEWS reached out to the Parksville-Qualicum Beach Tourism Association to see if Beach Festival’s decline in numbers indicate a larger pattern in the region’s tourism. Executive Director Blain Sepos doesn’t think that’s the case.

“It doesn’t always mean that because attendance at a festival is down, doesn’t mean that tourism overall is down. It’s not always a linear comparison,” said Sepos.

Sepos echoes Dill’s findings about July, saying that it’s common for July to be a bit of a softer month for tourism overall. Ultimately, August is the deciding factor on how tourism goes for the region, as it tends to be a busier month.

Hard data on tourism numbers don’t get released until two months after the summer’s end, so it’s impossible to make a statement as to how the summer is going.

The association uses hotel revenue to track tourism in the region. Dill says that in 2018, revenue in the Parksville-Qualicum Beach hotel industry was up by 1 per cent.

As for this summer, all the information the association has is anecdotal, and it doesn’t say anything for sure.

“Anecdotes from our stakeholders are very widely varied. Some people are saying it’s been a very strong summer, and others are saying it’s been a bit flat… there doesn’t seem to be a real significant or consistent trend from what we’re hearing,” said Sepos.

As for rain being a factor, Sepos says that’s possible. Some people who travel from afar may have no choice but to brave a rainy Vancouver Island-getaway, but those coming from the mainland or close by who see rain the in forecast may choose to stay home.

The Parksville Beach Festival runs until Aug. 18, with a variety of events planned for the final weekend. For more information head to www.parksvillebeachfest.ca.

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