Ferry traffic down as tourists go south

Tourists are lining up at U.S. border crossings instead of heading to B.C.'s favourite coastal getaways, and summer traffic on BC Ferries is down about four per cent as a result.

BC Ferries passengers enjoy view of Mount Baker and a glimpse of a pod of orcas in on their way to Vancouver Island.

Tourists are lining up at U.S. border crossings instead of heading to B.C.’s favourite coastal getaways, and summer traffic on BC Ferries is down about four per cent as a result.

BC Ferries is running its full summer schedule of sailings and CEO David Hahn estimates the lighter traffic means the corporation will probably take a loss of about $20 million on the year. But Hahn rejects the suggestion that rising ferry fares are keeping people away, because Statistics Canada figures show U.S. visits have slumped across Canada while traffic south has soared.

“The strength of the Canadian dollar, the price of fuel, has driven Canadians across the board, not just in B.C., down into the United States … it’s a reverse of what happened in 2003 and 2004,” Hahn told CKNW radio Thursday. “I guarantee the people with the big motorhomes in Alberta are thinking twice about coming west. They’re going south because they can buy a lot more fuel for a lot less money down in the States.”

In 2001, a vehicle with two passengers cost about $50 to travel from the B.C. mainland to Vancouver Island. That’s up to about $75 today, with proportionally larger increases on smaller routes. Hahn said BC Ferries’ fuel costs have tripled to $120 million a year since was appointed CEO in 2003.

Foot traffic on the ferries is up as travellers occasionally find sailing waits for walk-on passengers.

Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom put a cap on ferry fare increases this spring, one of several moves billed as part of Premier Christy Clark’s “families first” agenda. Fare increases of up to eight per cent on northern and smaller routes were capped at 4.15 per cent while the B.C. Ferry Commissioner reviews rates and makes recommendations to the government by early 2012.

Hahn noted that vehicle travel to the U.S. is up across Canada, and airport figures are showing the same trend. Passengers to Vancouver airport peaked in 2008 with more than 17 million passengers, but have not recovered completely from the U.S.-led economic crisis, even in the Olympic year of 2010.

Arrivals are also down since 2008 at Victoria, Comox and Prince Rupert airports.

Just Posted

B.C. Transit saves $300,000, scores 28 used fareboxes idle in California

‘Someone joked maybe we can buy used fareboxes on eBay,’ CEO says

PHOTOS: City of Colwood hosts a ‘heartwarming start’ to the holidays

Colwood Christmas Light Up Celebration sees surge in attendance

Tenants above Wellburns uncertain after ‘nightmare’ sewage flood ousts them indefinitely

Tenants evacuated after sewage flooded basement of century-old building

Victoria cycling community raises concern over new bike lane designs

High traffic along a corridor needs to be considered, Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition says

Hundreds of students gather at Government House to decorate Christmas Trees

The annual tradition let Grade 2 and 3 students help celebrate for the holidays

VIDEO: John Lennon’s iconic Rolls Royce rolls into Camosun College for checkup

Royal BC Museum, Camosun College and Coachwerks Restorations come together to care for car

POLL: Will you be donating to charities over the holiday season?

Many here in Victoria joined others around the world to take part… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Dec. 3

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

VIDEO: Rockslide closes part of Highway 93 in Fairmont Hot Springs

Geotechnical team called in to do an assessment after rocks fell from hoodoos

Petition calls for appeal of ex-Burns Lake mayor’s sentence for sex assault

Prosecution service says Luke Strimbold’s case is under review

Northwest B.C. wildlife shelter rescues particularly tiny bear cub

Shelter co-founder says the cub weighs less than a third of what it should at this time of year

BC firefighters to help battle Australian bushfires

Canada sent 22 people, including 7 from B.C.

B.C. NDP touts the end of MSP premiums

Horgan, James held news conference to reiterate that people will get their last bill this month

Oscar Hickes: Longest running hockey tournament on Vancouver Island cancelled

Patrick Murray, one of the organizers for the tournament, broke the sad news on social media.

Most Read