Tourism on Gabriola rebounds for 2012
More tourists paid a visit to Gabriola this summer and businesses benefited as a result.
Carol Ramsay, manager of the Gabriola Island Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Centre, said Visitor Centre numbers over the summer were about the same as 2011 except for Sundays, which saw a huge jump, from an average of 10 walk-ins to 30.
“We’re marketing more aggressively than the last couple of years so we’re finding it’s paying off.”
She said Tourism Vancouver Island and Tourism Nanaimo came over to discuss how to market Gabriola Island; one of the tactics has been to promote Gabriola as easier to get to than other Gulf Islands.
Like last year, more people are coming over from Vancouver Island, particularly from Nanaimo and Parksville. There has been a slight increase in Albertans and Americans as well, and there remains an international contingent, with visitors from Great Britain, Germany, China, Sweden and Belgium, to name a few.
The 30,000 brochures the Visitor Centre distributes each year also help drive tourists to the island, said Carol. The brochures are displayed at 120-130 Visitor Centres and organizations as well as on the ferries.
The Visitors Centre has been working with a tour group in the last year resulting in nine trips over three months. That helped restaurants and accommodation.
“Getting tour buses is somewhat new for Gabriola ... because you can’t do reservations with the ferry,” said Carol.
Silva Bay Inn was often booked and B&B reservations picked up as a result.
Gloria Hatfield at Page’s Resort and Marina said they are currently up 25 per cent for the year for accommodation. Many of the lodgers came to the island to house hunt, usually staying three days to a week.
“The people coming to look at property were from all over the place,” said Gloria. “There were a lot of people coming from Vancouver Island and people from all over Europe.”
Camping, moorage and marina use are slightly up for the year and Page’s Bookstore is up 20 per cent in sales.
Mark Sager at Silva Bay Marina had a similar season. “With the very poor weather at the beginning tourism was down considerably; however, with this nice weather recently, tourism is up considerably,” he said.
Fish charters on the island also had a strong season.
Colleen Clifford, president of the Gabriola Historical and Museum Society, said admissions were up 82 per cent for the year to August over 2011.
“The new Brickyard exhibit generated a lot of interest.” She said the exhibit has brought in lots of locals while the petroglyphs continue to be popular with tourists.
American and Canadian visitors outside B.C. are down from last year as are European tourists, but many people still come from Washington and California and Alberta and Ontario.
Connie said the museum is getting a reputation for being of a high quality.
“People are really surprised at the calibre of the museum,” said Connie.
For July 2012, vehicle traffic on BC Ferries was down 0.59 per cent from last July. Passengers saw a slight increase from last year, up 0.17 per cent. August 2012 stats are more positive: vehicle traffic was up 5.29 per cent for the month over last August and passenger traffic was up 4.9 per cent.
The number of people travelling on bicycles on the Nanaimo Harbour-Gabriola route went up this summer.
“Year over year bikes on route 19 were up nine per cent in July and 14.5 per cent in August,” said Deborah Marshall, executive director of public affairs for BC Ferries. There was a decrease in non-Experience Card bike users over last year: numbers were down around 100 users each month to 154 and 207 in July and August, respectively.