Ferry traffic down as tourists go south

Tourists are lining up at U.S. border crossings instead of heading to B.C.'s favourite coastal getaways, and summer traffic on BC Ferries is down about four per cent as a result.

BC Ferries passengers enjoy view of Mount Baker and a glimpse of a pod of orcas in on their way to Vancouver Island.

Tourists are lining up at U.S. border crossings instead of heading to B.C.’s favourite coastal getaways, and summer traffic on BC Ferries is down about four per cent as a result.

BC Ferries is running its full summer schedule of sailings and CEO David Hahn estimates the lighter traffic means the corporation will probably take a loss of about $20 million on the year. But Hahn rejects the suggestion that rising ferry fares are keeping people away, because Statistics Canada figures show U.S. visits have slumped across Canada while traffic south has soared.

“The strength of the Canadian dollar, the price of fuel, has driven Canadians across the board, not just in B.C., down into the United States … it’s a reverse of what happened in 2003 and 2004,” Hahn told CKNW radio Thursday. “I guarantee the people with the big motorhomes in Alberta are thinking twice about coming west. They’re going south because they can buy a lot more fuel for a lot less money down in the States.”

In 2001, a vehicle with two passengers cost about $50 to travel from the B.C. mainland to Vancouver Island. That’s up to about $75 today, with proportionally larger increases on smaller routes. Hahn said BC Ferries’ fuel costs have tripled to $120 million a year since was appointed CEO in 2003.

Foot traffic on the ferries is up as travellers occasionally find sailing waits for walk-on passengers.

Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom put a cap on ferry fare increases this spring, one of several moves billed as part of Premier Christy Clark’s “families first” agenda. Fare increases of up to eight per cent on northern and smaller routes were capped at 4.15 per cent while the B.C. Ferry Commissioner reviews rates and makes recommendations to the government by early 2012.

Hahn noted that vehicle travel to the U.S. is up across Canada, and airport figures are showing the same trend. Passengers to Vancouver airport peaked in 2008 with more than 17 million passengers, but have not recovered completely from the U.S.-led economic crisis, even in the Olympic year of 2010.

Arrivals are also down since 2008 at Victoria, Comox and Prince Rupert airports.

Just Posted

Metchosin driver striking a deer heralds a need for caution

Vehicle incident likely not the last of its kind in Greater Victoria

The rock is no more for Oak Bay ‘Sea Lore’

Council calls for change to controversial location proposed for art installation

Mary Winspear offers out-of-this-world evening with Chris Hadfield

Tickets on sale March 22 for Colonel Chris Hadfield visit May 7

Five highlights in the 2019 federal budget

Latest budget includes a sprinkling of money for voters across a wide spectrum

POLL: When do you think the next major earthquake will hit Vancouver Island?

According to seismologists, Vancouver Island is overdue for a magnitude 7 earthquake.… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of March 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

View Royal council to discuss proposed 3.5% tax increase tonight

Budget open house to directly precede the council meeting

Facebook to overhaul ad targeting to prevent discrimination

The company is also paying about $5 million to cover plaintiffs’ legal fees and other costs

B.C. mosque part of open-house effort launched in wake of New Zealand shootings

The ‘Visit a Mosque’ campaign aims to combat Islamophobia

‘That’s a load of crap’: Dog poop conspiracy spreads in White Rock

Allegation picked up steam through a Facebook page run by a city councillor

Explosives unit brought in after suspicious boxes left at B.C. RCMP detachment

Nanaimo RCMP issues all clear after packages were found on lawn earlier in the day

2019 BUDGET: As deficit grows, feds spend on job retraining, home incentives

Stronger economy last year delivered unexpected revenue bump of an extra $27.8 billion over six years

Most Read