Business is booming in Tofino.
Tourism Tofino’s executive director Kirsten Soder is beaming over the amount of visitors pouring into Tofino and she believes this year’s tourist crop has brought “unparalleled” benefits to local businesses.
“One would be hard-pressed to find a local business on the coast that has indicated this isn’t their best year ever,” Soder told the Westerly.
While the Cox Bay visitor centre has not seen a rise in visitors coming in—12,642 in July 2015 compared to 12,766 in July 2014— Soder suggested this reflects a shifting trend in how tourists are getting their information.
“While we still consider face-to-face visitor interaction to be a critical part of in-destination marketing, we are seeing huge gains in our social media interactions which is likely why we haven’t seen the growth in visitor centre users at the same rate as Park road counters or occupancy growth,” she said.
She said occupancy rates have soared and she expects to see huge gains once all the totals are tallied.
“As of June 30, overall accommodation occupancy is up 18.9 per cent (year-to-date) over last year, with a growth of 7.7% in June specifically,” she said.
“Our AHRT (hotel tax) is up 27.2 per cent YTD, representing the last available month (May), but I’m confident a strong June and July will translate into further gains.”
She suggested a strong American dollar and exceptional weather contributed to favourable market conditions this year and added Tofino has benefited from positive media attention both nationally and internationally.
“Combined with the hard work and creative marketing efforts of our staff, our stakeholders and our partners, Tofino is well positioned to see continued growth across all sectors in our industry,” she said.
“As the experiences offered here continue to grow and become more sophisticated, more of our local industry businesses and employees are seeing the extension of a previously seasonal industry becoming a sustainable, more year-round one, and that is very exciting.”
She suggested tourism brings more than just an economic boost to Tofino.
“The value of tourism extends far beyond economic growth and providing visitors with happy memories and life-changing experiences. There is a significant multiplier effect on every dollar generated from outside of the community, and social benefits and opportunities to welcoming more guests to the area,” she said.
“Tourism acts as a ‘shop window’ for the region’s lifestyle, enticing visitors to return again as guests, and often as residents and investors.”
She said Tourism Tofino continues to work with partners and stakeholders to extend the tourist season and keep the dollars pouring in all year.
“Seasonal occupancy data supports what we already know: that there isn’t much room for occupancy growth in July or August. This is why we have always focused our energies in autumn, winter and spring on inviting visitors to take in new year-round experiences in and around Tofino, including guided marine activities, festivals and events, and self-led activities like trails, beaches, restaurant sampling, and exploring shops and galleries,” she said.
She added Tourism Tofino enjoys solid relationships with the district, local chambers of commerce, Tourism Ucluelet, the Pacific Rim National Park, the West Coast Resort Association, as well as local community leaders and stakeholders.
“We are in a unique position to anticipate many potential challenges, and meet them proactively and with engaged leadership,” she said.
“I really want to commend our collective community of residents and visitors for their efforts to help conserve our freshwater supply in this exceptionally hot, dry summer. I’m confident that if met with other challenges, we can work together in similar collaboration to mitigate negative impacts on our community.”
She noted collaborations have recently led to particularly successful initiatives.
“We have seen the most successes in our campaigns that incorporated contesting and special offers, and we’re always generating new concepts and ideas to engage both visitors and local residents, like promoting our #yourtofino hashtag across social media platforms,” she said.
“Partnering with Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and Ucluelet on “The Real West Coast” initiative positions us as a cohesive regional brand at consumer shows, and other partnerships like the “Share Vancouver Island” campaign with Sooke, Nanaimo and Blackball Ferry Lines raises destination awareness and further leverages our Tofino-centric advertising campaigns in key markets.”