Considering the town has been consistently packed, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Ucluelet is currently enjoying a bumper crop of tourism.
The Pacific Rim Visitor Centre counted 9,732 tourists in June this year, up from 5,885 in 2014, and 20,403 tourists in July, up from 14,493 in 2014, according to chamber of commerce executive director Sally Mole.
Mole said Ucluelet’s downtown visitor centre has seen more modest, but still significant, increases with 1,099 tourists in June, up from 852 in 2014, and 3,143 in July compared to 2,128 in 2014.
“We’re definitely seeing a big jump,” she beamed.
She said tourism is up across Vancouver Island and suggested a strong American dollar and solid marketing strategies have combined to bring an influx of visitors.
She added Ucluelet has earned a strong reputation as a tourist-friendly community.
“We still maintain that friendly Ucluelet moniker and I think that goes a long way so it’s definitely paid off for us,” she said.
“It’s huge and it has a big impact on people’s impressions…They’re getting that small town community feel, which is a great experience and they love that.”
She touted Ucluelet’s friendly local population as a “key element” to the town’s success.
“This community has really done a great job of putting the welcome mat out there and keeping that shiny happy face on and if we can just maintain that for a few more weeks we’re golden,” she said.
She added the local business community has benefited from the solid turnout but hasn’t had time yet to enjoy the fruits of their efforts.
“We’re at that point of summer where we’re gasping. We’re all really busy but we’re maintaining that shiny happy face and people are working hard and it’s paying off for them,” she said.
“This is crunch time and we’re all pulling together.”
While the increase in guests is welcomed, Mole questioned whether Ucluelet has any room left for more growth.
“It’s exciting but it’s also a little scary. I think we have to look at our capacity. We’ve had times in the last couple of weeks where we’ve been full as far as accommodation goes and you really don’t want to have to turn people away,” she said.
“We’re pushing at our seams and we really need to look at what capacity do we have (and) how do we maintain that small town feel but still provide a good visitor experience.”
She added Ucluelet has welcomed about 15 new businesses since the start of 2015 and these new businesses have hit firm ground running.
“What’s really pleasing, as far as the chamber of commerce goes, is the increase of new businesses that have started and the fact that they’re having a great season and it’s a good start to their entrepreneurial career…it really bodes well,” she said.
“We’re bringing diversity. There’s new businesses and new opportunities and I think that’s really great.”
While the West Coast’s tourist season has historically concluded in September, Mole believes this year’s season will extend into October.
Read about how Tofino’s tourist season is going in next week’s Westerly News.