After lacklustre years of fewer visitors and declining revenues, Victoria’s tourism industry is finally turning the corner.
Having picture-perfect weather through July always helps, but take a walk downtown on virtually any weekend and the streets are packed with cruise ship passengers and locals taking in a continuous array of public festivals, restaurants and street food.
Successful events like the Highland Games, Canada Day concerts, Northwest Deuce Days, the Buskers Festival, the Moss Street Paint-In, the Street Food Festival, and further afield, Rock the Shores and the University of Victoria’s Congress conference have driven a renewed vibrancy to the city, and drawn huge crowds.
The beloved Symphony Splash and popular standbys like Beer Fest and Rifflandia are yet to come.
Tourism Victoria may have some creative advertising in Vancouver and Washington State, but the long lineup of festivals and events seems less a co-ordinated plan and more a perfect storm of an improving economy meeting an especially active year for the city, wrapped in warm, sunny weather.
These kind of downtown events and festivals that get people out on the streets and into pubs and restaurants is exactly what Victoria needs.
The city has worked hard to rejuvenate its image from a somewhat staid British outpost to a place where people can explore and have fun in the urban core, suburban neighbourhoods or regional parks.
Assuming the anecdotal boost in activity matches the statistics, this could be a renewal year for what was once a mainstay industry in the city. Victoria suffered from steep declines in tourism numbers and spending since 2008, and which has either remained flat or edged up slowly into 2012. Hotel occupancy rates, and the number of cars on the ferries between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen have taken a beating since 2007.
But as signalled by steadily improving cruise ship numbers, our southern neighbours are starting to travel abroad in greater numbers again, good news for a sector that provides jobs for thousands of Greater Victorians.