Powell River hosted a record numbers of visitors between June and August, due in part to wildfires in BC’s interior. The threat of smokey skies pushed visitors to the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island this summer and deterred others from coming, according to data collected by local and provincial tourism offices.
Powell River Visitor Centre manager Tracey Ellis recently presented a report on summer visits to the Tourism Powell River board.
“We did see an increase, in part because of the fires,” said Ellis after the meeting. “A lot of our visitors were trying to get away from the smoke and the coast was clear.”
According to Ellis’ report, statistics for visitors to Powell River Visitor Information Centre between June and August indicated a 30 per cent increase in June with 1,102 visitors compared to 848 in June 2016.
Visits in July were up 8.8 per cent with 2,068 visitors compared with 1,901 in July 2016. August saw a 15.7 per cent increase with 2,408 visitors compared to 2,081 during the same month last year.
Sunshine Coast Tourism executive director Paul Kamon said even with periodic smoke on the coast, tour operators and accommodators have been reporting record numbers of customers for the summer.
“There are numerous stories coming from visitors who planned to go to the interior, but changed their vacation plans due to the fires,” said Kamon. Determining exact figures for the number of visitors is difficult, he added.
According to Kamon, international news coverage of the province’s wildfires may have played a role in keeping would-be visitors away. He said the attention made the fires sound far more wide ranging than they actually were.
The provincial government released Statistics Canada’s international-visitor-data report for July on October 4, which indicated a 0.2 per cent dip for BC’s tourism sector compared with July 2016, but an overall three per cent, year-to-date increase in international visitors.
While Tourism Powell River does not know the exact numbers of visitors to the region, Ellis estimated that 10 per cent of visitors come into the visitor centre.
She added that reviews on travel website TripAdvisor have helped direct information seekers to the centre.