The Victoria tourism industry showed signs of recovery this summer – the first real signs since the 2008 recession, say tourism officials.
Average hotel occupancy in Victoria increased by 4.76 per cent from July 2013 compared to July 2014.
This was the highest accommodation occupancy rate in the last decade, according to Chemistry Business and Human Resource Consulting.
The Royal B.C. Museum attracted many visitors from Canada and the United States with its Vikings exhibit. While the museum knew the exhibit would be popular due to online surveys and previous discussions with guests, the Vikings display exceeded expectations.
“We are running eight per cent ahead of target,” said Sandy Pratt, executive financial officer.
She credits this to the Vikings exhibit being the museum’s most popular since the recession.
“It’s something of interest to a lot of different people,” said Pratt.
Pratt said the museum reached out more with its marketing this year into Alberta and Washington State than in previous years, and it has paid off.
There have been more visitors from outside B.C. this year, said Pratt, adding in the past few years the majority have been from B.C.
According to Pratt, the museum targeted 185,000 guests from May until November, the length of the Vikings exhibit, but now believes there will be closer to 200,000 people.
“That is up from what we have seen over the last several years.”
Comparatively, the popular dinosaur exhibit from 2012 drew 170,000 to 180,000 guests, said Pratt.
After the success of Vikings, she added the museum will continue to bring in exhibits that will hopefully bring in as many if not more visitors.
“We’re trying to create something that’s very exciting and interesting for everyone,” said Pratt.
The Prince of Whales whale watching company in Victoria has also had a busy summer. Ben Duthie, sales and operations manager, said there has been at least a couple per cent more visitors this year compared to last year.
“There has been a rise in American travellers coming over with the dollar being stronger,” said Duthie.
A good start also set the stage for the rest of the summer.
“We were graced by early sightings of killer whales, [which] created buzz for the remainder of the season,” said Duthie. “We were lucky enough to have consistent sightings for the whole summer.”
Weather is also a big deciding factor for visitors wanting to go whale watching, said Duthie. Luckily for him, the sun was shining more than usual in Victoria.
On average in July, there are 321.1 hours of sunshine in Victoria, according to Chemistry Business and Human Resource Consulting. However, this July shone brighter with 354.8 hours of sunshine and 13.7 millimetres less rain than average.
2013 was the first recovery year for tourism in Victoria since the recession, said Paul Nursey, CEO of Tourism Victoria.
Nursey said consumer confidence is increasing and he is hoping for even more growth in tourism next year.
“Now that we’re recovering, we’re in a good place for investment,” said Nursey, adding it is important for investment to occur in hotels and restaurants, for example.
“In 2014 we built on that,” he said. “We need to keep working hard.”