Tourism numbers were up across the province in 2016

Tourism numbers up across B.C. in 2016

The rise in tourism was reflected in record-setting numbers at the Ashcroft and Cache Creek visitor centres.

It was a banner year for tourism in British Columbia in 2016, with more than 5.1 million international visitors coming to the province in the first 11 months of the year. Some 1.5 million domestic and international tourists made Kamloops part of their trip, either during a stop-over or as an overnight visitor, which drove accommodation revenue in that city up 11 per cent between January and September, compared with the same period in 2015.

“Provincial accommodation revenue was up 12.6 per cent in the same period over 2015,” says Monica Dickinson, director of industry relations and communications for Tourism Kamloops, adding that 2016 was an “exceptionally strong” year for the city.

“Numbers at the visitor centre were up 32 per cent, with just over 21,000 visitors in 2016.” She notes that visitor numbers were up for most regions, including B.C. (18 per cent), Alberta (18 per cent), the rest of Canada (29 per cent), Washington State (14 per cent), and Europe (21 per cent).

Locally, the Cache Creek visitor centre recorded 8,300 visitors in 2016, up from 6,400 in 2015. The Ashcroft visitor centre saw a record 1,379 visitors, almost double the number of visitors in 2014 (the centre did not open in 2015).

Dickinson says that Kamloops was buoyed by a series of big events in 2016, beginning with the Women’s World Cup of hockey in April. Camper tourism is also rebounding, with many visitors taking circle tours that encompass the Kamloops area.

She adds that the mild weather through the fall of 2016 also contributed to visitor numbers remaining strong even after the end of the peak tourism season, as did favourable exchange rates for travellers and more direct flights to Vancouver from foreign destinations. Last year a record 22.3 million passengers flew into Vancouver International Airport.

Many international publications—including The New York Times, Lonely Planet, and National Geographic Traveller—have named Canada one of the top tourist destinations in 2017, largely due to the 150th anniversary celebrations this year. Dickinson says that while Tourism Kamloops is projecting further growth in numbers this year, they are being conservative, and forecasting a four per cent increase over 2016.

“We’ve just completed a new five-year strategic plan,” she says. “Among the major platforms we’ll be addressing are brand revitalization, and identifying opportunities to develop experiences that will set Kamloops apart. Word of mouth is important, and that comes down to the people visitors interact with. We’re working with stakeholders and partners so they can be the best businesses they can be.

“And Destination BC is doing great work on behalf of the entire province,” she adds. “They’ve really ramped up their international marketing efforts in key markets.”

Tourism is one of the province’s largest industries, and a major generator of jobs. The B.C. tourism industry employs more than 127,000 people in more than 19,000 tourism businesses.