After being affected by the pandemic, tourism statistics in 2021 began a climb back toward more normal levels of activity, local politicians were told.
At the June 14 City of Powell River committee of the whole meeting, and the June 16 qathet Regional District committee of the whole meeting, Tracey Ellis, executive director of Tourism Powell River, highlighted activities and trends as part of her annual report.
Speaking to city councillors, Ellis said the organization was in recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. She said she had heard at a conference that a return to normal numbers is forecast for 2025.
Ellis said that in 2021, there had been 5,214 visitors to the visitor centre, which was up 36.9 per cent over 2020, but down 50 per cent compared to pre-COVID-19 numbers.
She said that in 2021, tourism office staff attended the Thursday night markets and 647 visitors were served, not including locals. A total of 754 phone calls for visitor information were received and 849 emails were answered, also for visitor information, from the May long weekend to Labour Day weekend.
The top community information requested include: 860 enquiries for hiking in general; 596 inquiries about the Sunshine Coast Trail; 356 for heritage sites; 293 for Lund; and 232 for backcountry.
Ellis said in April 2021, the community app was launched.
“It really took off well,” said Ellis . “We currently have 5,800 users of the community app and we had a high of 7,800. That’s perfectly normal. People come from other destinations and when they leave the community, they would take the app out of their phones unless they are planning on coming back. We anticipate we’ll peak again this summer as well.”
Ellis said inside the app, there were 4,448 information requests, 2,874 accessed the visitor guide section, 1,067 looked for community information, 798 looked for directions, 277 visited the emergency preparedness and 1,081 looked for things to do.
Events were incorporated into the calendar this year, so they have been added to the app as well, according to Ellis.
In terms of Google analytics for website visits, in the first quarter of 2022, there were 19,500 views, with 11,909 searches. There were 93 requests for directions to the visitors centre and 41 people called the centre.
Tourism Powell River is now embracing TikTok as a social media platform, according to Ellis.
“Our TikToks are celebrating the area, but also, the staff exploring the area,” said Ellis. “The first question when we recommend something is: Have you done it? We can say yes, we have done it and we show it off in the nice, short windows that TikTok gives us.”
Ellis said Tourism Powell River also shares on Instagram, where the organization has a larger following than TikTok.
Facebook is up 1,500 followers to 6,458, according to Ellis. The community calendar has been added to the Facebook site and people are engaging with that, added Ellis.
In terms of retail sales, in 2021, they totalled $46,246.
“They have really bounced back,” said Ellis. “We still did really well in 2021 with souvenirs and things. We project we will do $50,000-plus this year.”
Ellis said Tourism Powell River will have a booth at several local events this year, using a tent, having sold the organization’s Boler trailer to the Langley visitors centre, which doesn’t have a bricks and mortar location.
The visitor centre washroom is in the process of being upgraded, according to Ellis.
“Washrooms are one of the biggest reasons people go to visitor centres, so we are upgrading the washroom this year and we are also making it more accessible,” said Ellis.
There has been approval to hire two summer students this year, one of which will be a cultural liaison with Tla’amin Nation, according to Ellis.