Wildfires severely impact local tourist industry

Closure of Wells Gray Park affected guided activities and accommodation revenue

By Keith McNeill

It appears that last summer’s wildfires severely impacted some sectors of the local tourism industry – much more than they did province-wide.

The local impact was largely as the result of the closure of Wells Gray Park.

READ MORE: Wells Gray Park re-opening

“Following a record breaking June for tourism, I received reports of between 30 to 40 per cent losses for guided activities during July,” reported Stephanie Molina, marketing manager with Tourism Wells Gray.

“Additionally, the amount of accommodation revenue was down 25 per cent this July over last year. This signifies that the wildfires and park closure did impact tourism in our area in addition to other areas of the province.”

British Columbia’s international visitor arrival numbers showed only a slight dip in July, according to the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture.

There was a 0.2 per cent decrease in the number of international visitors arriving in B.C. during July, 2017, as compared to the same month in 2016.

This amounted to 1,581 fewer visitors.

Wildfires in B.C. and across the border in Washington state appear to have had a negative impact on arrivals for July, mainly for short-haul travelers from the United States and potentially on Asian visitors to Seattle who may have chosen not to drive up to B.C.

Decreases for July across B.C. included: South Korea – down 12.1 per cent; and United Kingdom – down 8.1 per cent.

Across B.C., increases for July (over July 2016) included: Mexico – up 18.5 per cent; Germany – up 12.5 per cent; and Australia – up 12.1 per cent.

British Columbians, as well as people in Alberta and Washington, are being encouraged to #exploreBC by traveling this fall to support festivals, events and local tourism operators.

In 2015, the tourism sector employed 127,000 British Columbians; paid $4.5 billion in wages and salaries; supported nearly 19,000 tourism-related businesses in B.C.; and contributed $7.4 billion towards the province’s GDP.

Wells Gray Park was closed completely on July 9 due to the wildfire risk. After being re-opened on July 25, it was partially re-closed on Aug. 5, with the backcountry only open to guided groups. It was re-opened on Sept. 12.


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