Traditionally at this time of year, hundreds of local tourism-related businesses are working hard to prepare for the tourist season.
Greater Victoria has been long known as a desirable destination in the spring and summer months. Our bright, sunny weather is a draw for many. Cruise ships arrive in port and our iconic hotels fill with guests — many experiencing for the first time what Greater Victoria has to offer.
What local residents perhaps are less aware of is the tourism economy in Greater Victoria is coming off a very successful shoulder and off-season as well.
In the past few years, Tourism Victoria identified this period in the calendar as an opportunity for growth. Promotional campaigns for romance and LGBTQ travel, Chinese New Year and the Dine Around culinary promotional campaign brought many visitors to Greater Victoria who otherwise would not have visited.
Greater Victoria is diversifying its tourism product and the sector is thriving. Businesses are confident and have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years for hotel renovations, new ferry services and other infrastructure.
This in turn helps other sectors in the economy such as construction and trades.
The Victoria Conference Centre is a great example of capitalizing on new opportunities. In 2016, Tourism Victoria and the City of Victoria entered into an agreement where Tourism Victoria would take over the sales and marketing function of the Victoria Conference Centre.
The collaboration between the two organizations resulted in a 60 per cent increase (138 vs. 220) in conference leads to our destination. In January, Tourism Victoria hosted the inaugural Impact Sustainability Travel and Tourism Conference.
More than 175 delegates from across the country came together and discussed the future of tourism in a new age of environmental and social responsibility. Many of these conferences — like Impact — are taking place in our shoulder and off-seasons, bringing attendees from all over to Greater Victoria. They fill our hotels and spend money at our local restaurants, helping the local economy in the process.
Although we have made strides in in our shoulder and off-season, we have much to look forward to in our upcoming spring and summer months. We are anticipating another busy year. New flights to Victoria International Airport have been announced, including direct flights to and from Montreal and Edmonton.
Last year, Victoria was named by Condé Nast as its No. 2 destination in the Readers’ Choice list of best small cities outside the U.S.
Word is out about Greater Victoria as a tourism destination — and not just regionally or nationally, but internationally as well.
As Greater Victoria’s tourism product evolves, so must our brand. Our organization is re-branding our destination to better reflect what we are and what have become. Greater Victoria was once a regional tourism brand, but is now a truly global tourism brand. These changes will be unveiled in the next few months.
The future of tourism in Greater Victoria is exciting and ever changing. Tourism Victoria will continue its hard work to attract visitors to our region, and doing its part to support the local economy and community in the process.
Paul Nursey is the president and CEO of Tourism Victoria