A flood of tourists is making this a summer for the record books on the Mid-Island and officials say its likely the low Canadian dollar that’s giving the extra boost.
BC Ferries traffic is up, as are flights in and out of the Nanaimo airport and hotel occupancy is seeing huge growth. No where is this surge in tourism more visible than Parksville.
As crowds pour into the Parksville Sandcastle Festival and pack the surrounding beach, an amazed group of volunteers watches in wonder.
“It’s never been this busy,” says Ron Strothers, looking out at the crowds.
Strothers says after volunteering at the Parksville Sandcastle Festival 6 years in a row, he has never seen anything like this.
“There’s a lot of people from Europe here this year and I’m so surprised. I think tourism must be up a tremendous amount on this part of the Island,” says Strothers.
It is. Way up, says the Parksville & District Chamber of Commerce.
“From a tourism perspective it’s been through the roof,” says Parksville & District Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Kim Burden. “We’ve had record numbers here at the visitor centre. All of the accommodation people that I talk to are having a record year.”
And the prime summer season still has weeks to go.
“Our numbers are double here at the visitor centre what we usually do. And no it’s not a hair, the resorts that I’m talking to are up between 15 and 25 per cent over last year which was again a record year,” says Burden.
Burden says the safety of the region, mixed with a big bang for the buck is being credited with the rise.
“We’ve got Canadians that aren’t travelling south and we have Americans that are travelling north. It’s a perfect storm it’s great,” he says.
Visitor numbers are up an estimated 25 per cent in neighbouring Nanaimo and Qualicum Beach as well. Suggesting the entire region is benefiting from this.
“Certainly I think things that are happening internationally and the strength of the American dollar has made Canada a really great place to come,” says Ron Strothers.
With world class events like this Sandcastle festival running through late August, hopes are high the region has only seen its first waves of visitors.