Poised for strong fall

With summer winding down, Tourism Tofino is heading into its fall lifestyle campaign before October’s surf month and the winter’s storm watching season.

Tourism Tofino has beefed up its data collection capacity and now has about 70 per cent of all Tofino’s fixed roof accommodation providers with 14 rooms or more reporting their numbers, according to Tourism Tofino’s general manager Kirsten Soder.

“We’ve got some backcast history and ability to forecast now due to the sheer number of properties in Tofino that have agreed to sign onto our Smith Travel Reporting mechanism,” she said.

“It’s nice that we have that data now going back to 2012 and we’re able to see what those trends look like year over year.”

The numbers suggest Tofino’s occupancy rates are up as is Tofino’s hotel tax revenue.

“We’re seeing more animation and more activity,” Soder said adding Tofino’s downtown improvements and free shuttle service have positively influenced visitor experiences.

Tofino celebrated a banner winter season last year with November seeing 14.5 per cent more visitors than the year before and December seeing a 9 per cent increase, according to Soder who said weather was a key contributor.

“Obviously we had the weather on our side over the winter where it was not great for places like Mt. Washington and our neighborhood ski hills,” she said. “That translated into really big wins for us over what were traditional ski months.”

Spring provided another boost as March saw a 25 per cent increase in visitation and April saw a 21 per cent increase, according to Soder.

She said after that, the numbers

began to drop as May’s visitation was down 9 per cent and June’s down 14 per cent from 2013.

April saw about 2,500 visitors come into Cox Bay with 2,700 in May and about 4,000 in June, according to Soder.

She said Tourism Tofino’s Cox Bay visitors centre was a checkpoint

for a Parks Canada survey conducted over the summer so tourists were getting their questions answered without stepping into the Cox Bay centre to be counted for Tourism Tofino’s numbers.

“Overall for the quarter we’re down almost 500 people between

April and June but there was a couple extenuating circumstances,” she said.

“We don’t actually feel there was a decline in visitation at all and our occupancy numbers and hotel tax numbers don’t indicate visitation was down to that degree.”

Soder said more Americans are arriving this year after Tourism Tofino aggressively targeted the Washington State and Oregon markets.

“It is good news to see

some of those plates returning again,” she said. “We did a collaborative marketing campaign in 2013 and it’s underway in market right now in 2014 in and around the Seattle and Portland areas.”

She said this campaign was done in collaboration with Nanaimo, Sooke, Port Renfrew and Black Ball Ferry Line.

“We’re trying to get people to move around the Island a little bit more, we know that if people can come and stay a bit longer then they’re less affected by things like ferry and fuel costs,” she said.

Soder suggested the West Coast might combine its powers to launch some potential touristluring initiatives in the next 12-18 months.

“Tourism Tofino, Tourism Ucluelet

and Parks Canada are all working on a couple of joint projects right now that are in the works to really help co-brand the communities and the Park as a regional destination,” she said.

“We know visitors don’t see municipal boundaries when they travel anywhere, so we want to be encouraging them to explore both our communities and the Park.”

She is confident the West Coast will continue serving as a tourism haven.

“It’s a jewel of a product, there’s no where else in Canada like the West Coast so we already have that and some ongoing momentum and notoriety going for us, but we know we need to continue to innovate in our marketing endeavors,” she said.

“We’ve got some exciting things coming down the pipes for later this year and looking ahead to 2015.”

Carla Moss of Clayoquot Wild, a Tofino based sightseeing company, has been thrilled to see an increase in visitor interest in local First Nations culture.

“We’re seeing a lot of really amazing, interesting, people coming through that are really interested in the First Nations culture and history that our guides offer so that’s pretty exciting,” she said.

“The Truth and Reconciliation work that’s gone on has changed the perception of First Nations to a degree in Canada…and I think that’s increased Canadian interest in the history and elevated the respect that a lot of people have for the history and the culture.”

reporter@westerlynews.ca