— Pamela Roth
Local businesses are getting on board with Tourism Victoria’s initiative of turning the city into a Halloween tourist destination.
For the last few weeks, Darlene Hollstein, general manager of the Bay Centre, has enjoyed watching people pass by the two windows on Fort Street that have “living portraits.”
The portraits, one of a man and another of woman, interact with viewers for about 20 minutes with moving eyes, scary faces and some gruesome moments.
“It’s super cool. It’s not for the young or weak at heart,” said Hollstein. “Victoria is well known for its excitement around Halloween and this is just part of it.”
The city also worked with local artist Steve Milroy to create ten black cats with solar powered illuminated eyes that were installed throughout the downtown core. Orange and green lights are also up on the trees of Government Street, and an interactive bat mural is housed at the visitor centre.
In addition, the Clipper overnight has a haunted Victoria Tour, the Delta is hosting outdoor movies, hotels are offering scary packages, and the Magnolia Hotel has done up a map for guests with haunted spots they can cycle to.
A festival-like atmosphere with kids booths, mazes, pumpkin carving and beer tasting took place around the Bay Centre on Sunday.
Victoria’s tourism industry enjoyed an unusually busy summer, with significant growth in hotel rates and revenue — in some cases the best in years. Year to date, occupancy is up 3.97 per cent and the average daily room rate is up $11.28. Tourism Victoria is now trying to build its off-season business as well.
“We’ve been working very systematically to build reasons for visitors to come in the off season,” said Tourism Victoria CEO Paul Nursey, noting the organization began its successful Christmas campaign about three of four years ago. Another initiative focused on romance is held in February.
“We haven’t had a strong off-season historically, but compared to the rest of Canada we’re a great destination to visit during the off season.”
Tourism Victoria started pushing Halloween tourism last year, and has been working with the local business community to make it bigger this year. Invitations were also sent out to travel writers and media to spread the word about the city’s spooktacular feel at this time of year. At least seven key journalists have visited Victoria in October.
So far, getting the business community on board with celebrating Halloween has been an easy sell. When asked why Hollstein wanted to be part of it, she replied:
“Why not? It’s just adding something extra for the families and consumers to participate in....We’re all kids at heart.”
For more information visit TourismVictoria.com/Halloween.