A tale of two destinations: Victoria struggles while Tofino rides a wave of tourism success
VICTORIA -- Tourist season is supposedly in full bloom in Victoria, but try telling that to Chris Hamel, who's been riding a pedicab in the capital for 19 years.
The company he works for has only two out of 28 cabs on the road this summer. He's riding one of them.
"It's really our industry that is the hardest hit of any in Canada, I would say," Hamel notes.
In the wake of the border closure to the south and the demise of the cruise ship season, the tourism industry is sputtering in bigger cities like Victoria.
For example, Prince of Whales whale watching is only making about 15 per cent of what it was last year.
Still, Ian MacPhee, who works for the business, says it's just glad to have any passengers.
"It's not anywhere near enough to sustain us, but it's better than nothing," he says.
Despite the province encouraging folks to travel around B.C. and from elsewhere in Canada, without foreign travellers, the majority of hotel rooms in the city are empty, says Paul Nursey, the CEO of Destination Greater Victoria.
"Vancouver, Victoria, and we're seeing this across Canada – they need to fill thousands of hotel rooms and replace millions of visitors and the British Columbia market just isn't big enough to do that,” Nursey said.
Bill Lewis is the President of the Hotel Association of Greater Victoria. He confirms that occupancy rates are way down this summer.
"It's dramatically down from years past," says Lewis. "The city as a whole is operating at 15 to 20 per cent occupancy, which is obviously not the 90 per cent range that we’re used to in summer"
However, smaller, more remote communities like Tofino seem to be thriving in relative terms.
Samantha Hackett, with Long Beach Lodge, says her hotel and most in the Tofino area are about 80 per cent full.
She attributes the discrepancy in occupancy between Victoria and Tofino to the outdoors-oriented nature of Tofino,
"You know, getting out of the city, there's a little bit more space,” Hackett said.