While tourism has rebounded to 85 per cent of what it was pre-pandemic in Greater Victoria, that’s largely due to Canadian travellers.
Now, Destination Greater Victoria (DGV) says it’s time to start working on bringing American tourists back.
“To build a more stronger resilient tourism industry for local businesses it’s really critical to bring some of the U.S. market back,” DGV CEO Paul Nursey told CHEK News.
The tourism marketing group has now released its 2023 business strategy with a focus on bringing in conferences and meetings from U.S. groups like small San Francisco tech firms as well as increasing targeted marketing for leisure travellers.
Historically, Americans have accounted for roughly 16 to 20 per cent of all visitors to the region and typically spend 70 per cent more than Canadian tourists.
But as the pandemic forced them to rethink the way they travel and stick closer to home, Nursey says enticing them back won’t be an easy task.
“An American in Seattle could go to Maui on a flight for $179 on Alaska Air, that’s cheaper than coming up here in Victoria,” he said. “It’s going to be ongoing, chipping away with major marketing campaigns into Seattle primarily, partnering with our ferry, float plane and other transportation providers.”
One of those partners is Kenmore Air. About half of its business pre-pandemic was cross-border so the travel restrictions hit hard. But the company’s CEO says he’s now seeing strong signs of recovery.
“Our numbers to Canada are actually outpacing some of our domestic flights so there’s a bit of encouragement there and reason for hope,” said CEO David Gudgel.
Kenmore Air is now planning to expand service to Victoria this spring, offering two round-trip flights a day on a Cessna Caravan between Boeing Field in Seattle and Victoria International Airport. It would come in addition to its current float plane service.
The airline is working with U.S. regulatory agencies to secure final approvals.