Canada Day revellers to enjoy a fireworks display at Canoe Beach in 2018. Fireworks were launched from a barge on the water. (File photo)

Smoke takes toll on summer visitor numbers

Mobile Visitor Centre touted as great boost for exposing tourists to local amenities

Smoke took its toll, but not as large a chunk as it did in 2017.

Statistics compiled by the Salmon Arm Visitor Centre reveal that the number of visitors to Salmon Arm in 2018 did not rebound to 2015 and 2016 highs, but the community saw more summer visitors in 2018 than the year before.

“We were once again impacted by heavy smoke from the forest fires but we didn’t suffer the heavy rains in June as we had in 2017,” says Corryn Grayston, executive director of the Salmon Arm Chamber of Commerce.

Read more: 2016 – Summer tourism sees upswing

Visitor numbers in 2018 were consistently a little lower than in 2017 from January through April, and October through December. Despite 2018 being a dominant year for the Adams River sockeye run, visitor numbers were down from 2017. However, in July and August of 2018, the number of visitors was 700 and 900 higher respectively than in the summer of 2017.

Read more: Salmon run lures tourists

One of the reasons for the high summer numbers this year was the use of the Mobile Visitor Centre, says Grayston.

Staff used the brightly coloured beach cruiser bikes to travel throughout the downtown, telling visitors about all the recreation, entertainment, shopping, food artisans and markets the town offers. Stats about the visitors were also collected and they were given a vacation planner as well as a weekly itinerary.

Leaving the bikes at home in favour of a car, chamber staff would also drive farther afield to campgrounds and beaches such as Sandy Point, Pierre’s Point, Hidden Valley, Salmon Arm Camping Resort, Herald Park and Canoe Beach, to spread the word about local amenities.

“It’s so well-received when we go out to the campgrounds,” says Grayston. “A lot of the people might be regulars and might not be aware of all the events for the week.”

Read more: 2017 – Visitor Centre numbers see small upswing

Where visitors reached by the Visitor Centre came from did not change much from 2017 to 2018. Visitors from B.C. were top, followed by people from Salmon Arm. Next were visitors from Alberta, then Europe, the United States, Canada and Asia/Australia. One improvement was that more visitors stayed for two- and three-night stays than in 2017.

In total, 12,832 visitors connected with the Visitor Centre in 2018, down slightly from 12,941 in 2017.

“I’d like to see us up where we were in 2015, 2016,” says Grayston. “I would still say it’s a pretty good year. What we’re finding is, we need to be connecting with tourists where they’re gathering. That’s why we created the Mobile Visitor Centre.”

Regionally, the Thompson-Okanagan was third in B.C. in terms of visitors, behind Vancouver Island in first place and Vancouver Coast & Mountains in second.


@SalmonArm
marthawickett@saobserver.net

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