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Tourism stakeholders call for better bus service in Greater Victoria

Lack of connecting infrastructure sends visitors home earlier than it should: Tourism Victoria CEO

Greater Victoria needs better transportation infrastructure to meet the increasing number of tourists who are travelling outside the downtown core, say industry stakeholders.

Visitor numbers are expected to increase by about 1.5 per cent this year over 2012, but certain businesses are missing out due to a lack of frequent bus service between the region's biggest tourist draws, said Tourism Victoria president and CEO Robert Gialloreto.

"We've got great product throughout the Greater Victoria region, but we just can't access it as seamlessly as we want to for our tourists," he said. "So, a lot of our tourists come here, they're in the Inner Harbour, they might take a bus trip to Butchart Gardens, they walk around and they leave, when they should be spending four or five days here."

While the industry runs its own Peninsula bus service to tourist draws such as Butchart Gardens, Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre, Victoria Butterfly Gardens and Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse, it isn't enough to encourage mass tourism visits throughout the region, Gialloreto said.

"There's just totally enough stuff to do in the Capital Region. But we need to have the transportation infrastructure in place and we don't."

Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Carter said more needs to be done at all levels of government to reinvigorate the local tourism industry.

A lack of stable, long-term tourism marketing funding from both the provincial and federal government is hampering the industry, he said.

"Even city council has a role to play, and if we want to have a look at new tourism attractions, we need to look at attracting those and finding ways to approve those (at the local level)," he said.

Carter and Gialloreto offered joint support for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce's Top 10 barriers to competitiveness, released this week. Those barriers included the high cost of air travel, a lack of sales tax breaks for visitors and the difficulty acquiring travel visas from certain foreign countries.

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