‘Short-term pain’: Downtown Victoria business groups eye long-term benefits of museum rebuild

Those in the tourism industry say the Royal BC Museum announcement is actually a long-term win for downtown Victoria. (CHEK News)

After more than two bleak years, tourism operators are finally seeing business boom once again.

“Hotels are full, the revenues are way up, a lot of the restaurants you can’t get a reservation any day of the week,” said Jeff Bray, president of the Downtown Victoria Business Association.

But now another potential shadow looms. The Royal BC Museum is being shut down for eight years while a new facility is built on the same spot at a cost of three-quarters of a billion dollars. The loss of such a major attraction will no doubt mean a loss of some visitors to B.C.’s capital.

READ MORE: B.C. to spend $789 million to replace Royal BC Museum

“One of the largest groups of people that come to the museum are school kids that come on buses form all over the province,” said Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Williams.

“Certainly the coffee shops, the restaurants in and around the museum probably will see some short-term impact,” said Bray.

But those in the industry say despite the short-term pain, the announcement is actually a long-term win for downtown Victoria.

“The provincial government could have put the provincial museum anywhere in the province quite frankly so the fact they’ve chosen to maintain that downtown location we’re very supportive of and very pleased,” said Bray.

And they say there are plenty of other draws in the downtown core to keep the tourists busy over the next few years.

“You can come downtown and go to the Bateman Gallery you can go to the Bug Zoo, you can go to the Maritime Museum, all of these things are still around,” said Williams.

B.C.’s Minister of Tourism, Art, Culture and Sport says taking the museum exhibits on the road over the next eight years will help draw visitors to other communities around the province.

“We know when we bring those exhibits to community that people will go visit them for example the mammoth is being suggested to be at YVR, the woolly mammoth is in high demand, the orcas are going to be at the cruise ship terminal, we’ve got exhibits going to the mall so they’re accessible to British Columbians,” said Minister Melanie Mark.

And in its absence, the DVBA says things are still looking up for local operators as the return of office workers, conferences, and international tourism keeps tourism afloat.

“Their challenge now is finding staff not finding customers,” said Bray.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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