Busy tourism industry faces shortage of workers and hotel rooms

Despite accumulations of snow during the first two months of the year, Greater Victoria’s tourism industry is out of the gates quickly in 2019 with early numbers suggesting the region is in for another record year.

Numbers compiled by Chemistry Consulting show year-to-date hotel occupancy and revenue per available room are both ahead of last year’s pace. Average occupancy was 57 per cent in the first two months of this year, up 0.43 per cent, while revenue per available room was up 34 cents to $78.32.

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Chemistry principal Frank Bourree said it is “absolutely going to be a strong year, and again we are going to be dealing with a need for more hotel rooms,” he said.

Last year, a shortage of hotel rooms led to high daily rates and a shortage of beds (there were days when online booking sites reported the entire city was sold out) during the height of the tourism season. In 2018, Victoria hotels had a 76.43 per cent occupancy rate and revenue per room of $140.77.

The other shortage is in people.

Bourree said a strong economy coupled with a limited labour pool could spell trouble for some tourism businesses. “I’ve never seen the [labour situation] this bad,” he said of a region with an unemployment rate of 3.2 per cent. “And there’s no end in sight.”

Bourree said with affordable housing still a problem and the tourism sector often at the bottom of the pecking order after high-tech, construction and the public sector when it comes to hiring, there could be shortages.

There was a slight drop in ferry traffic through the first two months of this year, with B.C. Ferries reporting a 2.16 per cent drop in vehicle traffic and 2.14 per cent drop in passengers on its busiest route between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay.

Victoria International Airport had a slight drop in passenger numbers with a 2.82 per cent reduction compared to the first two months of last year.

Victoria Conference Centre has 7,389 delegate days booked, compared to 13,461 at the same time last year.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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