Hope and British Columbia are experiencing a boom in tourism, according to their respective bodies.
Hope’s Visitor Centre has seen a 57 per cent increase in visitors from January through March and 19 per cent from April through June, compared to last year. British Columbia has seen a similar 14 per cent increase in visitors for the first half of 2016.
“I think it was mostly the Canadian dollar,” said Visitor Centre operations manager Helen Kennedy. “It was down, so British Columbians weren’t heading down to the States as much. Gas prices are really low, so road trips made sense again.”
On the flip side, because of all the aforementioned reasons, American traffic into Hope also increased.
“We had a lot in the February-March time, of Americans who went up to Harrison, making good use of how far their dollar would go, and then coming out to Hope for a day or two as part of that trip.”
The Visitor Centre also believes marketing Hope to the Metro Vancouver area has brought traffic here. Kennedy said they promote Hope as a convenient place to avoid crowds, traffic and experience outdoor activities.
“We certainly saw some visitors coming out as a result of those initiative,” said Kennedy. “We’re seeing a lot of visitors from Vancouver who would normally be going to Squamish, and because Squamish has gotten so big and so busy, they’re looking for somewhere with a lot of similar activities but less people around.”
The challenge for them now lies in changing the perception of Hope as a pitstop for gas and grub.
“We’re definitely seeing some positive return on that marketing. We’re getting a lot of folks up from Chilliwack-Abbotsford area coming into the Visitor Centre.”
District of Hope Mayor Wilfried Vicktor commended AdvantageHOPE for their efforts.
“I was visiting friends in Abbotsford, and they said, ‘I saw this awesome (Embrace Hope) leaflet in the Abbotsford paper.’ That’s the kind of promotional initiative that hadn’t been in place before,” said the mayor.
Vicktor said he does not feel too concerned if people see Hope as a pitstop, as long as they stay a few hours, patronizing businesses and visiting recreational sites.
“Not everyone has to stay multiple days for it to be a meaningful visit,” said Vicktor.
Kennedy said the Visitor Centre has seen a “consistent flow of international visitors,” but this year, visitors from China, Germany and the Netherlands have increased.
“We have seen a spike in Chinese visitors but that’s partly because this is the second year where we’ve been able to count roaming visitor services as part of our total visitor numbers,” said Kennedy.
Roaming visitor services refers to tourism staff who are stationed at places such as Memorial Park and Othello Tunnels and interact with tour buses, mostly with Chinese visitors, said Kennedy.
From January to May, British Columbia saw 1.65 million visitors, translating to a 14 per cent increase over the same period last year.
“For the first five months of this year, visits from the U.S. were up almost 16 per cent and visits from Mexico were up just over 38 per cent over the same period last year,” said a Government of British Columbia press release.
They add that provincial tourism growth has also been helped by the low Canadian dollar, along with Destination BC’s new international marketing strategy.