Canadian visitors provide boost to Victoria tourism industry

Canadian visitors provide boost to Victoria tourism industry
WatchFor many, the Labour Day long weekend marks the unofficial end of summer. It's usually one of Victoria's busiest weekends of the year, attracting tourists from all over the world. COVID-19 restrictions, however, have limited travel across the globe and Victoria is no exception. But as Kevin Charach reports, experts say the tourism industry this summer did better than expected.

It may not have the lively busker performances and bustling crowds from years past, but downtown Victoria remains popular long weekend destination for many visitors, including some Americans, looking for a getaway.

Despite the U.S. recently issuing an advisory asking Americans to reconsider travel to Canada due to increased cases of COVID-19, CHEK News found an American couple who arrived via their boat, saying they received a warm welcome from locals upon arrival.

“Our harbour police, just, like, thanked us for coming and he was glad to see Americans back in the city and spending some money,” said the couple from Bow, Wash., which is located about 30 kilometres south of Bellingham.

With restrictions prohibiting cruise ships from docking in the capital region, plus other COVID-related traveling hurdles, the region’s tourism industry has seen a major decline in international travelers. However, experts say Victoria still had a surprisingly strong summer.

“Well, the industry’s been really gritty and really resilient,” said Paul Nursey, Destination Greater Victoria’s chief executive officer. “Victoria’s always been a very popular tourism destination, we bounced back this year.”

Mike Hill, who has been making and selling jewelry for 20 years in the inner harbour, says fellow Canadian tourists have saved his summer.

“We’ve actually done pretty good for the year,” said Hill. “There’s been a lot of bigger families from Ontario and Edmonton, like big families traveling together.”

It’s a trend that also benefited the Victoria Harbour Ferry.

“Today I had some people from Newfoundland, people from Ontario a lot of Manitoba, people from Whitehorse,” said ferry Capt. Sam Van De Merwe. “Overall, it’s been a lot busier than we were anticipating.”

Experts say the city also saw an increase in visitors due to the Okanagan’s increased COVID restrictions and the region’s devastating wildfire season. Although some tourist-driven businesses exceeded expectations, it’s been far from a record year.

“Canadian travelers don’t spend as much as American and International, so we need that mix again,” said Nursey. “But we’re very grateful for having pretty steady hotels, restaurants and tour buses this summer.”

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Kevin CharachKevin Charach

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