Alberni tourist numbers up while Island is down

There were 9,064 to Alberni visitors in July and August, which is up from the 8,024 this same time last year.

More visitors over the summer months translates into more awareness about the Alberni Valley, said Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director Bill Collette.

There were 9,064 visitors in July and August, which is up from the 8,024 this same time last year, he said.

Across the Island, the number of visitors dipped, going from 249,000 last year to 238,000 this year.

“The numbers were down by four per cent across the Island so we did quite well,” Collette said.

The increase in visitors is attributable to several things, he added.

The weather was good, especially in July. The economy is no longer flatlined. And the visitors centre is ideally located at the intersection of Highway 4 and the Redford Extension, Collette said.

But it’s the work of the “yellow-jacketed” ambassadors that really made a difference.

The volunteers, noticeable for their bright yellow jackets with black question marks on the back, work through the summer by stationing themselves at Valley landmarks, engaging tourists and answering questions.

“They talk about the Valley and have a huge impact,” Collette said.

The numbers were measured by keeping tabs on the number of visitors who stop in at Alberni’s visitors centre.

The numbers are tabulated then forwarded to Destination BC.

According to Collette, the numbers are made up of a cross-section of domestic and foreign visitors.

“Europeans were very significant. We had people from Belgium and France, and we even saw a group from Israel,” he said.

Visitors were usually on their way to the West Coast but centre staff used every opportunity to direct them to Alberni Valley attractions such as the steam train, MV Frances Barkley and the Broken Group.

The numbers mean there is an increased awareness about Port Alberni and what it has to offer, city economic development manager Pat Deakin said.

There was also a different type of visitor coming to the Valley Deakin added.

“We heard people were coming back here from the West Coast to get out of the fog and into the sun,” he said.

Port Alberni also entered the tech age with people looking the Valley up on the Internet and on their smartphones, Deakin said.

“The question now is how do we take advantage of all this in advance of next tourism season,” Deakin said.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

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