Record year for Victoria tourism, with a bright outlook for 2017

Victoria’s tourism industry posted record numbers for 2016 and has established a base from which to expand in 2017, according to a report released Tuesday by Chemistry Consulting.

“It’s the best we’ve ever seen,” said Paul Nursey, chief executive of Tourism Victoria, though he noted that the hotel occupancy rate was affected by reduced hotel room supply and the room rate was affected by inflation.

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Average hotel occupancy was at 74 per cent in 2016, up four percentage points from a year earlier. Revenue per available room jumped nearly $12 to $159 in 2016 compared with the year previous.

Nursey said last year was an excellent one for the industry, and something on which it can build.

“We need to de-risk the future,” he said, when asked how they would build on two years of growth. “Cycles like this don’t always last and Canada won’t always be ranked the No. 1 country in the world to visit.”

Nursey said Tourism Victoria intends to aggressively go after conference business and seek more overnight stays in the spring and fall shoulder seasons. While there’s room for growth in the shoulder seasons, the high season of July and August saw average occupancy above 90 per cent.

“All the fundamentals are in place for another strong year as we look to build on the momentum of the last two years,” said Bill Lewis, chairman of Tourism Victoria.

“With Canada turning 150, and the New York Times and Lonely Planet naming our country as the No. 1 place to visit, there is every reason to believe the tourism industry will continue to be a major driver for Greater Victoria’s economy in 2017.”

Chemistry Consulting said B.C. Ferries saw a 4.5 per cent increase in vehicle traffic over 2015, and a 4.2 per cent increase in passengers between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen.

Victoria International Airport had a record year with 1.86 million passengers, an 8.5 per cent increase over 2015.

The Victoria Conference Centre posted a 10.5 per cent increase in delegate days as Tourism Victoria’s push for conference business started to take hold last year.

“There are many factors favouring the tourism industry across Canada, but I think what we’re seeing is that everyone in Greater Victoria is rowing in the same direction,” Nursey said. “Our team works closely with business and all levels of government to make sure we’re ready for when opportunity knocks.”

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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