Ferry traffic down as tourists go south

Tourists are lining up at U.S. border crossings instead of heading to B.C.'s favourite coastal getaways, and summer traffic on BC Ferries is down about four per cent as a result.

BC Ferries passengers enjoy view of Mount Baker and a glimpse of a pod of orcas in on their way to Vancouver Island.

Tourists are lining up at U.S. border crossings instead of heading to B.C.’s favourite coastal getaways, and summer traffic on BC Ferries is down about four per cent as a result.

BC Ferries is running its full summer schedule of sailings and CEO David Hahn estimates the lighter traffic means the corporation will probably take a loss of about $20 million on the year. But Hahn rejects the suggestion that rising ferry fares are keeping people away, because Statistics Canada figures show U.S. visits have slumped across Canada while traffic south has soared.

“The strength of the Canadian dollar, the price of fuel, has driven Canadians across the board, not just in B.C., down into the United States … it’s a reverse of what happened in 2003 and 2004,” Hahn told CKNW radio Thursday. “I guarantee the people with the big motorhomes in Alberta are thinking twice about coming west. They’re going south because they can buy a lot more fuel for a lot less money down in the States.”

In 2001, a vehicle with two passengers cost about $50 to travel from the B.C. mainland to Vancouver Island. That’s up to about $75 today, with proportionally larger increases on smaller routes. Hahn said BC Ferries’ fuel costs have tripled to $120 million a year since was appointed CEO in 2003.

Foot traffic on the ferries is up as travellers occasionally find sailing waits for walk-on passengers.

Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom put a cap on ferry fare increases this spring, one of several moves billed as part of Premier Christy Clark’s “families first” agenda. Fare increases of up to eight per cent on northern and smaller routes were capped at 4.15 per cent while the B.C. Ferry Commissioner reviews rates and makes recommendations to the government by early 2012.

Hahn noted that vehicle travel to the U.S. is up across Canada, and airport figures are showing the same trend. Passengers to Vancouver airport peaked in 2008 with more than 17 million passengers, but have not recovered completely from the U.S.-led economic crisis, even in the Olympic year of 2010.

Arrivals are also down since 2008 at Victoria, Comox and Prince Rupert airports.

Just Posted

Editor’s view: A Hopeful start to the community’s first 10 km run

Good mix of pomp and circumstance, variable terrain and silliness at Sunday’s run

Lower Mainland could see spring flurries

Snow expected at higher elevations

Auditors couldn’t tell if Fraser Health executives bought booze on taxpayers’ dime

Review from 2014 says one administrator bought Bose headphones on company credit card

Experts detect risk of rock avalanche above Bridal Falls near Chilliwack

Risk in the one-in-10,000-year is minimal but triggers FVRD to direct growth elsewhere

VIDEO: Olympic medalist teaches swimming in Hope

Brent Hayden fondly remembers local swim meet from his youth

Vancouver Aquarium’s resident octopus released into ocean

Staff let the Giant Pacific octopus go into the waters near Bowen Island so she can reproduce

BCHL Today: Prince George avoids elimination with game five win

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Suspect arrested and charged for assault on autistic man

Parmvir Chahil has strong B.C. ties; two others charged with accessory after the fact

Uber self-driving crash video calls safety, rules into question

Experts say footage shows that vehicle’s sensors should have spotted pedestrian, initiated braking

Installation complete for Alex Fraser Bridge cable collars

The collars will continue to be operated manually

Greens’ Elizabeth May, NDP’s Kennedy Stewart join B.C. anti-pipeline protest

The two politicians could be arrested for violating a court injunction

B.C. man shot by police in 2017 pleads guilty to string of offences

Kaymen Winter gets two years, opts for trial on two charges related to Salmon Arm car wash shooting

Are you going to turn off the lights for Earth Hour?

BC Hydro report says fewer people in the province are taking part, but feel it’s still important

Marijuana edibles won’t be regulated in 2018

Health Canada says edible regulation is still more than a year away

Most Read