Tofino is welcoming more visitors than ever before

Tofino is welcoming more visitors than ever before

Behest of the West: Tourism is growing while our population growth is slowing

New locals are wrestling their way in, but not at the rate you might think if you’re looking out your window in August.

Happy belated Darwin Day West Coast.

We celebrated the mind behind the theory of evolution on Feb. 12; it was Charles Darwin 208th birthday.

Our peninsula’s natural playground keeps us relatively fit and we’re all blessed to be surviving in these surroundings. Feel fortunate. The opportunity to live here is a hard score.

Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest’ refrain isn’t as simple as it sounds. It doesn’t directly translate to those with the best abs living the longest.

There’s an important piece around environment and adaptability that’s often overlooked and I’m worried we might be adapting our own environment to make it more fitting for another species.

Our tourism numbers continue to skyrocket. It seems every season is recorded as the best season yet. That’s a good thing and we’re grateful to our hardworking destination marketing organizations for providing a steady stream of tourists who give their money to us.

Our population growth though, is pretty humdrum.

New locals are wrestling their way in, but not at the rate you might think if you’re looking out your window in August.

Tofino’s population is up to 1,932, according to the recently released 2016 census results. That’s a roughly 3 per cent increase since 2011’s census counted 1,877 locals. Ucluelet grew a little more than that with 1,717 locals counted in 2016, a 5.5 per cent increase from the 1,627 who lived here in 2011.

Both of those growth rates fall below the province’s, though Ukee missed it by a hair. B.C.’s population rose by 5.6 per cent.

While our respective population growths put Tofino and Ucluelet squarely in the middle of Vancouver  Island’s pack, where no alarm bells are ringing, we should be concerned about the direction our available housing is going, particularly in Tofino.

Ucluelet’s doing alright with 737 of its 841 private dwellings occupied full-time; good for 87 per cent. That’s close to the province’s mark of 91 per cent with 1,881,969 of B.C.’s 2,063,417 homes occupied full-time and it’s bang-on where Ucluelet was at in 2011 when its census results showed 814 dwellings, of which 711—87 per cent—were lived in full-time.

Tofino isn’t sitting so pretty at 72 per cent; 755 of its 1,037 dwellings are resided in year-round. That’s a 2 per cent drop from 2011’s results that showed 1,033 dwellings and 765 lived in full time. More people living in less houses is likely a sign of Tofino’s reproductive prowess and that should be celebrated, but why did the number of dwellings increase by only four in five years?

It’s important to note that, between 2006-2011, Tofino’s population skyrocketed by 13.4 per cent and Ucluelet’s by 9.4 per cent. That growth is slowing as fast as our tourism seasons are growing.

There are a handful of housing projects crowning the horizon, but those are tough to be excited about because of the perpetual fact that, when ‘For-Sale’ signs go up, investors and part-time locals are the ones throwing the ‘Sold’ stickers around.

It’s wonderful to see them so awe-struck by our surroundings that they want to invest in our paradise, but we can’t compete with the dollars they’ve raked in from their lands of opportunity. This isn’t an employment-rich landscape. Outsiders have more money to spend.

The money our DMO’s are throwing at attracting visitors here and the RMI funds our councils are spending on tourist-friendly projects aren’t our dollars. DMO’s are sourced by a tax baked into our tourists’ hotel rooms and RMI is a gift from the province to thank us for attracting visitors this way.

It’s coming from them, not us, so we can’t be too furious to see it spent on them and not us. Gosh though, it’s sure hard to stomach watching all that cash thrown at beautifying amenities while we watch locals struggle to find shelter.

Property-tax-free presents like the National Park’s $17 million trail are graciously accepted, but we can’t let shiny tourism infrastructure distract us from the local infrastructure we need.

Our tourism population is growing faster than our local one. In the world we’re building, we’re not the fittest.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A 3.0-magnitude earthquake occurred off Ucluelet just after 12:30 a.m. on April 10 and was reportedly felt as far south as Oregon. (Map via United States Geological Survey)
Quake off Ucluelet reportedly felt as far south as Oregon

Magnitude 1.5 earthquake also reported off Vancouver Island’s west coast hours earlier

Theatre manager Sophie L’Homme is ecstatic to share the news that Tofino’s aging Clayoquot Sound Community Theatre is finally getting upgrades. (Nora O’Malley photo)
BC Arts grant funding breathes new life into Tofino’s community theatre

“Once it’s done, it’s going to be a pride of the town.”

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

The District of Ucluelet is fast-tracking temporary use permits for RVs/campervans as seasonal housing. (Westerly file photo)
Ucluelet launches seasonal worker housing pilot project

New program aims to match landowners with staff who need spots for the summer

A discarded blue surgical mask is shown hanging in a bush Dec. 6, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Ucluelet woman apologizes after comparing B.C. mask mandate to residential schools

First Nations Chief Moses Martin, a survivor said ‘I’ll put a mask on any day instead of the experience that I had’

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, was filming near Prospect Lake in Saanich last month. (Photo courtesy Fred Haynes)
Province announces $150,000 towards South Island film studio, fulfilling B.C. NDP promise

Investment to fund movie studio feasibility study at Camosun College

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Most Read