Skip to content

Tourism centre reports increase in visits

Local numbers exceed provincial average by large margin
POPULAR DESTINATION: Tourism Powell River visitor centre manager Tracey Ellis recently presented a report on visitation to the region. David Brindle photo

During the 2017 tourism sector shoulder season of September, October and November, visitors to Tourism Powell River’s visitor’s centre increased dramatically from the previous year. The tourism office reported 49 per cent more visits than the same period in 2016, much higher than the provincial average of 6.5 per cent.

With attendance at visitor centres declining all over the province, Powell River is an exception, according to visitor centre manager and marketing assistant Tracey Ellis.

“We're in the pluses,” said Ellis. “There are quite a few visitor centres that run a bit in the minuses.”

Year to year, visitor centre numbers increased 12 per cent, dramatically above Gibsons, Sechelt, Vancouver Coast and Mountains, and the provincial average of three per cent.

The statistics where included in a report to Powell River Regional District on January 11.

Ellis said she attributes some of the decline in other regions to technology and tourists going online for information. She argues that tech tourism might miss out on the “inside scoop” that only staff at a visitor centre can provide.

“I'm going to tell you about a beach I guarantee there won't be another person at,” said Ellis. “I'm giving you special information you can't get online.”

Nowhere is the use of technology more evident than with cycling tourism, where paper maps have been mostly replaced by smartphone apps.

Powell River Cycling Association and Chain Gang member Wayne Brewer said 50 per cent of mountain bikers he encountered in the backcountry three years ago had a trail map app.

“In 2017, that figure was probably more like 90 per cent,” said Brewer.

The number one request for tourists year-round is the Sunshine Coast Trail, followed by Lund and heritage attractions, including Townsite and Desolation Sound. Cycling is ninth.

For the future, turning Powell River into the next Tofino is not the plan, according to Ellis.

“We don't want to be overrun with visitors so we're all miserable in the summer,” she said.

Under the former Liberal government, a 10-year destination tourism development plan for the province was initiated.

“The Sunshine Coast is one of the first planning regions out of 20 in the province,” said Sunshine Coast Tourism executive director Paul Kamon. “We were the first one to go through process.”

Kamon said the development plan will be released soon.