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Victoria airport reports busy August

Despite warnings from think-tank, no signs here of drop-off in travel

The Conference Board of Canada is predicting the Canadian airline industry will face a bumpy ride this year, but the head of the Victoria International Airport hasn't seen any sign of trouble.

The board's industrial outlook for the industry claimed the European debt crisis, sluggish recovery of the U.S. economy and personal debt levels of Canadians will conspire to curtail Canadian travel plans.

"Given this weaker confidence and the deceleration in world economic growth, Canadian consumers and businesses are likely to be more cautious about their travel spending in the coming months," said the board's Michael Burt.

"Canadians are turning their attention to paying down their debt and are growing more cautious when it comes to spending."

According to the Conference Board, the industry lost $900 million last year due to rising oil prices. While those have cooled off in 2012, the board predicts the industry could lose $165 million in 2012 before turning a profit of $231 million in 2013.

But Geoff Dickson, CEO of the Victoria Airport Authority, said that isn't reflected in his numbers.

"We certainly haven't seen that, and if you look at both [Air Canada and WestJet], they are experiencing almost record load factors. WestJet has seen exponential growth throughout its system. I don't think they have seen curtailing in their traffic whatsoever," said Dickson. "I have seen some of that with international carriers, particularly those across the North Atlantic."

In fact, Victoria International Airport's most recent statistics show the second strongest August on record as passenger counts increased 2.4 per cent to 153,781 over August 2011. The traffic increase was driven by a four per cent increase in domestic traffic offset by an eight per cent decline in transborder traffic.

Through the first eight months of this year, growth has been flat at 0.5 per cent.

"That's what we had projected for the year," said Dickson. "Because of the uncertainty in the economy, we didn't want to forecast for much growth."

Dickson said early indications are it will be a strong fall for the airport with new services coming online.

Starting Nov. 1, Sunwing Travel is offering Thursday flights to Los Cabos, Mexico, adding to the regular suite of seasonal flights WestJet offers to Las Vegas, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, Phoenix and Honolulu, and CanJet's flights to Puerto Vallarta and Cancun.

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