Despite global slowdown in tourism, Greater Victoria enjoys decent year

Despite it being a so-called “off year,” Greater Victoria’s tourism industry managed to get through the summer relatively unscathed judging by the statistics released Tuesday by Chemistry Consulting.

In the face of a global slowdown in travel and fewer Chinese travellers, Greater Victoria’s tourism industry saw only a marginal drop in hotel occupancy levels through the end of August compared with the record numbers of 2019.

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“Everyone was expecting a level of plateauing,” said hospitality industry consultant Frank Bourree, principal of Chemistry.

Bourree said Chinese touring companies started to balk this year at the high prices of hotels in places such as Banff and Lake Louise — room rates often at $1,000 a night — which had a knock-on effect on the Island.

“Those [destinations] are part of a circuit to Vancouver and Victoria, so Chinese business was off this year,” Bourree said, adding the Chinese government also slowed travel to Canada as diplomatic relations soured. “And we are starting to see those declines.”

Victoria also missed the bump it got last year when Albertans and B.C. residents came to the Island to avoid the haze and smoke that resulted from a record forest fire season in 2018, said Bourree.

However, hotel occupancy in August was 89 per cent, down from 93 per cent the previous August.

Year-to-date occupancy was 76 per cent, down from 78 per cent last year.

Revenue per available room, on the other hand, increased through the end of August with hoteliers getting an average of $196 per night (year-to-date) this year compared with $190 over the first eight months of 2018.

Traffic on B.C. Ferries remained on par with last year, with a 0.86 per cent increase in vehicle traffic and a 0.56 per cent drop in passenger numbers.

There has been a significant increase in cruise ship traffic this year; through the end of August, the city welcomed 206 ships and 577,150 passengers, up from last year’s 197 ships and 543,333 passengers at the same time in 2018.

Victoria is Canada’s busiest cruise-ship port, is forecasting 264 ship arrivals and more than 700,000 cruise passengers to arrive next year.

Victoria International Airport, on the other hand, has seen a five per cent drop in passengers through its gates so far this year.

The airport has been dealing with the grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max fleet and the loss of United Airlines, which stopped its United Express service between Victoria and San Francisco in January.

The airport will be dealing with the loss of Delta Airlines for the rest of this year as it suspended its service from Victoria to Seattle in September.

However, Bourree said he remains bullish on the tourism industry as a whole because it has been preparing for a slowdown after six strong years and has booked more conference and sport tourism business for the coming year to offset any further declines.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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