New Tourism Victoria president and CEO Paul Nursey.

New Tourism Victoria president and CEO Paul Nursey.

New Tourism Victoria boss ‘cautiously optimistic’ about 2014

Hotel occupancy boost in Capital Region is a promising sign

On the surface, a two-per-cent increase in business might not seem earthshaking.

For Greater Victoria’s tourism industry, however, that increase – representing the uptick in average hotel occupancy for 2013 over 2012 – is a sign the overall economic picture is brightening, said Tourism Victoria’s new president and CEO, Paul Nursey.

“What it tells me is that we’re firmly in a recovery phase now,” said Nursey, who began his second week on the job Monday.

“It’s been a challenging few years stemming out of the global financial crisis and other challenges. But Greater Victoria is now really starting to see recovery.”

The city’s new tourism boss hails from Tsawwassen and already has a good handle on Victoria’s tourism challenges. He comes to the job with a broader perspective, however, having most recently served as vice-president of strategy and corporate communications for the Canadian Tourism Commission.

The position allowed him a unique vantage point on the state of the industry internationally, as well as its critical role in world economies.

“Tourism globally has been really been the start of the economic recovery,” he said, noting that tourism spending growth has been five to six per cent annually. “That’s largely driven by the rapidly growing middle classes around the world.”

Many of those people who are casting their eyes wider in terms of travel are looking to Canada, and to a certain degree, Victoria.

Kimberley Hughes, general manager at the Delta Ocean Pointe Resort and Spa, said international and Canadian visitors make up a much larger percentage of their guests than they did before the global recession hit in 2008-09.

U.S. visitors once made up 40 per cent of stays at the hotel, but have shrunk to between 10 and 15 per cent. However, last year saw the largest increase in business coming from the American market, she said.

“The economy saw an upswing (in 2013) and consumer confidence was much stronger,” she said. “I think there’s just more trust in the economy – we can feel it in our visitors.”

Overall, Ocean Pointe’s total revenue was up 15 per cent in 2013 over the previous year. It also saw a 10-per-cent increase in RevPAR, or revenue per available room, which is the industry’s standard performance metric.

The latter figure mirrors those seen elsewhere in the region’s hotel business, which saw an average overall jump of $7.64 per room in 2013 from 2012.

“The RevPAR number is definitely significant,” Nursey said. “That makes investment in our city more attractive. But I’m really happy with both numbers, since one feeds the other.”

While he is still feeling things out on the job, Nursey, who was based in Vancouver with the CTC, is “cautiously optimistic” about 2014 for Greater Victoria’s hospitality industry.

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