Summer tourism on Gabriola sees increase in day excursions

Krysta Reed

Sounder News

Wednesday, July 31 2019

With the growth of businesses, events and amenities on Gabriola, more and more visitors are making the twenty-minute trip across the water to enjoy the pristine island and all it has to offer. 

Gloria Hatfield, President of the Board of Directors for the Gabriola Chamber of Commerce (GICC) and owner of Page’s Resort Group, continues to invest her time as a volunteer and business owner, in making sure that Gabriola entrepreneurs succeed and tourists are provided with the best island experiences.

When asked about tourism stats for Gabriola this summer, Hatfield said, “The stats really kicked in [in] June, up and over 150 per cent [with] day trippers [but] not overnighters. Last year’s growth was the overnight side.

“The key components of the day trippers are the three markets. The Wednesday market is brand new and going gangbusters. All three of them bring people to the island.”

She said the main demographic showing up is “definitely women, 40 to 60 years of age.”

Page’s Resort and Marina has 13 campsites. Hatfield said, “Camping is good and solid. Numbers are slightly up at this point.” 

With the recent postponing of the annual fishing derby on Gabriola, overnight stays were at a low for the Page’s Resort Group.

Hatfield said, “This year has been a big change, with the change in the fishing regulations. When you’ve got hundreds of fishermen that [usually] come April, May and June; [then] the government closes chinook fishing to July 15. That was a huge hit, about a $15,000 loss, as lots of them usually stay.”

Hatfield has noticed an increase in families visiting the island. On average, people are staying for three to four days. Hatfield explains that most visitors are from Vancouver Island, Greater Vancouver and Washington State. There has been more interest in Nanaimo residents exploring the island also.

Descanso Bay Regional Campground has 33 campsites. Management at the park stated that they are getting busier each year because other provincial campgrounds are booking so fast. They have seen an overall increase of about 15 per cent in campers.

New software has been implemented this year which allows people to book their campsite and dates of stay directly online. The campground report shows 40 per cent of those staying at the park are families, 40 per cent are couples and 20 per cent are singles.

Most visitors tent; 20 to 30 per cent stay in RVs. Campers are predominantly from Vancouver, Victoria and the United States. The campground is proving to be a destination for first-time campers. The average stay is three nights, but the campground also has returning families each year who stay for two weeks. 

Hatfield explained that advertising efforts through Tourism Nanaimo’s extensive email list, to followers on both Instagram and Facebook, are all helping to promote tourism on Gabriola. 

Hatfield said, “Social media has come light years, which is really working to drive people to the island.

“With all the different experiences now and business owners working together, collaboration is taking place. 

“With the Chamber, our focus is on off-season tourism. When you’re working with businesses to create a package to promote their business for off-season people, then we’re focused on the toughest part - to be sustainable as a business.

“’With collaboration of all our entrepreneurs partnering up, we thrive. You not only learn things, [you] promote each other.”