Visitors watch as chainsaw carver Ryan Cook works on his piece in Memorial Park at the Chainsaw Carving Competition. (X. Y. Zeng photo)

Tourism trends changing as visitor numbers go up

Visits to the visitor centre are up.

Tourist numbers in Hope are going up again this year, according to Hope Visitor Centre and Museum manager Helen Kennedy.

Visits to the visitor centre have increased by 2.7 per cent in July and in the second quarter, they were up 12.5 per cent, said Kennedy. She added that her August numbers are likely to exceed or keep up with last August’s numbers.

Kennedy attributes the success to their marketing efforts in Metro Vancouver. She said the visitor centre has noticed many visitors from west of Hope, and that more people are realizing that Hope is becoming a destination because there are things to do in town. Lower gas prices have also resulted in more road trips, and the expensive U.S. dollar has also kept Canadians in Canada.

In terms of international visitors, Kennedy said they saw fewer Americans than earlier in the year.

“Our Washington visitors have dropped off a little bit, and we think a big part of that is because of the forest fires, both in northwest Washington and up here, there’s sort of an idea that B.C. is closed,” she said.

Wildfires have also resulted in more people asking for highway information at the visitor centre. Kennedy said 45 per cent of people who asked for directions wanted highway information in 2017, compared to 23 per cent in 2016.

Before the wildfires, Kennedy noticed many retired and semi-retired Americans from Idaho, Arizona, California and Oregon whose main intention was to travel the Alaska Highway to celebrate its 75th anniversary.

“It’s kind of a pilgrimage for Americans to drive to Alaska,” said Kennedy.

Great Fraser Salmon BBQ Competition organizer Donald Stokes and Chainsaw Carving Competition organizer Victor Smith both told The Standard that their events were affected by the wildfires. Asked if the wildfires have affected Hope significantly, Kennedy said Hope has not noticed it as much, however, Fraser Canyon tourism businesses such as Hells Gate and Yale Historic Site have been affected. Visitor numbers at various Fraser Canyon businesses have been below expectations after last year’s results, Kennedy said.

“Highway 1 — if anyone thinks it’s not a corridor route, then wait until it’s closed north of there,” said Kennedy.

On the other hand, some businesses in Hope are posting their best years. Kennedy attributes this to Hope being at the centre of multiple highways, and when highway closures happen, they will stop in Hope to figure out navigation.

The visitor centre is planning the Rambo First Blood 35th anniversary event on Oct. 7. Kennedy said they have been selling tickets and people from as far as Chicago and Japan have bought the tickets.