Henrietta the amphibious Hippo is scooting around Victoria by land and sea to prepare for the 2013 tourist season. You can't miss her.
The 40-foot-long bus is bright yellow with cartoon hippos painted on its exterior. It is one of three hippo buses brought to Victoria by tour company owner Geoffrey Lind, who operated a similar business for 12 years in Toronto. Two other hippo buses are parked while Henrietta is being used for test drives on the road and in the water. "She is performing well," Daria Yu, the company's manager, said Wednesday. New staff are being trained at the same time. The goal is to run tours from April 1 to Oct. 31 next year. Passengers will get a land tour, ride the bus into the water, and continue on land.
Henrietta is participating in the Esquimalt Celebration of Light parade starting at 6 p.m. on Dec. 4. "The other hippos are hibernating right now," Yu joked.
This past summer, Greater Victoria tourism officials lauded the hippo tours, saying more attractions are needed.
Tourism brings about $1 billion to the local economy every year, according to Tourism Victoria. But operators are getting used to living with uncertainty as visitor numbers fluctuate depending on everything from the weather to currency fluctuations. Tourists are increasingly making travelling decisions at the last minute and are tending to book shorter stays than in past years.
The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority is allowing the hippo to use the James Bay Boat Launch. No final agreements have been signed to date, said Rebecca Penz, GVHA spokeswoman.
Hippo Tours has been working with Transport Canada, which is responsible for certifying vessels, vehicles and operators.
Henrietta Hippo has a certificate that is good for one year and expires on Oct. 16, Transport Canada spokeswoman Jillian Glover said in a statement. "The other vessels - Harry Hippo and the Happy Hippo - have not been inspected yet for an annual certificate to carry passengers."
For more information, go to Victoriahippotours.com.
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