The chill in the air and the leaves on the ground are all signs that autumn is upon us, but for Victorians this time of the year signifies more than the end of summer beach days; it also means it’s almost the end of the tourism season.
It’s been a busy year for the tourism industry and everyone from hotels to cruise ships saw a jump in business.
For the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA) this meant welcoming their largest-ever cruise ship to the city, the Norwegian Bliss, which brought nearly 6,000 passengers and crew members to our shores every Friday.
“We’ve had more than 600,000 passengers this year and 245 ship calls,” said GVHA chief operating officer, Sonterra Ross. “This is our record year, looking ahead into 2019 those numbers will grow.”
A $7 million renovation to Pier B at Ogden Point will allow an even larger cruise ship, the Ovation of the Seas to come in next spring and bring in over 7,000 passengers and crew members.
The GVHA is also planning ahead for the next 30 years, aiming to restructure Ogden Point with their Ogden Point Master Plan, which aims to offer more parking space, restaurants, 63,000 square feet of office space, a brewpub and a First Nations Cultural Centre for tourists and locals alike to enjoy.
The GVHA submitted their most recent application to the City of Victoria in 2016, and at this point have released a public Request for Information looking for a development partner so that by 2019 they can put in their final application to the City.
The last cruise ship for 2018 arrives on Oct. 14.
For the Victoria International Marina, their soft launch summer has seen nearly 40 luxurious yachts moor at the new private docks, something that CEO Craig Norris said taught them a lot of lessons.
“We definitely saw some surprises in numbers… Some guests will spend $30,000-$100,000 on groceries,and could be quadruple that on drinks, so we’ve got to expand our line,” Norris said.
He added that tweaking concierge services and tourism destination options are also on the roster for the company’s official launch in 2019.
“Pier to pier; we had a great season,” Norris said. “We’ll make a number of changes and adjustments. Next year will be our grand opening in the spring, so we’re ready for that.”
The Victoria International Marina will also host a new 7,000 sq. ft. restaurant, the Boom and Batten, scheduled to open in February 2019.
Overall, Destination Greater Victoria – formerly Tourism Victoria– said the year was a hit.
“It was another very strong year,” said CEO Paul Nursey. “We saw significant growth in conferences, and a growth in hotel room rates.”
While final numbers still need to be determined, Nursey estimates that over four million tourists visited Victoria this year, including professionals visiting the city’s blossoming conference hub.
“It goes to show our collaborative work to have one integrative conference program for the past couple of years is starting to pay off,” he said. “Conferences are booking multiple years in advance.”
While data for tourism dollars needs to be compiled by Statistics Canada, in 2016, when 3.9 million visitors came to town the industry earned $2.3 billion, so a slight increase in earnings can be expected.