Regional tourist activity increases

Tourism proponents study economic impact of mid-summer visitors

Powell River is in the middle of one of its best years for tourism. Between May and July 2016, 3,595 people came into the information centre, while 3,935 came through during the same period this year.

According to Sunshine Coast Tourism executive director Paul Kamon, 2017 has been a strong year so far for tour and accommodation providers, as well as some restaurants.

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“Last year was a huge year for tourism and we are seeing similar numbers this year,” said Kamon.

The number of people coming for the region’s adventure tourism is up, he added.

BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall said the ferry corporation’s Powell River routes have all seen above average increases for ridership this year.

According to BC Ferries’ traffic statistics, ferry traffic is up between four and five per cent, depending on the route. But ferry stats tell only a partial picture with resident and visitor traffic intermingled.

According to City of Powell River wharfinger Jenn Kinahan, traffic in the south harbour has resulted in a record-breaking summer for visitors arriving by boat.

"Our harbour is super, super busy with transient boaters," said Kinahan.

Totals will not be available until the fall after boating season wraps up and Kinahan starts putting together a report on the season.

Meanwhile, Lund harbour manager Darlene Denholm said July was not busier than previous years.

“I wouldn't say it's up,” said Denholm. “The insanity that normally lasts four weeks here did not last four weeks this year.”

Fewer people are stopping by brick and mortar locations to learn what and where Powell River’s tourist attractions are, according to Kamon, and instead are turning to mobile devices for information.

“Because of that, it’s hard to get an accurate gauge of the ups and downs of tourism," said Kamon.

Overall, numbers of visitors do not tell the full story of how Powell River’s tourism sector is developing.

Much of what passes currently as a barometer for how tourism is doing comes from stories business owners or tour operators tell about what they experience.

Hard data is available less often, which makes it a challenge to measure the pulse of tourism, a sector of the local economy growing in importance, said Kamon.

That lack of hard data is about to change in one significant way.

“The plan is to get benchmarks in place so we can have a better understanding of the economic impact of tourism,” said Kamon.

Visitor accommodation providers on the Sunshine Coast began charging a two per cent municipal and regional district tax on rooms last August. As a result, the provincial government is now able to measure how many visitors are staying in hotels and provide data to Sunshine Coast Tourism.

Kamon said plans also include gathering visitor data through surveys and studies.

“This is not just about tourism,” said Kamon. “This is about economic development for the whole region.”

Copyright © 2017 Powell River Peak


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