So far, 2013 has been a productive year for tourism in Clearwater and Wells Gray Country, according to a report delivered to town council recently by Tourism Wells Gray manager Brad Bradbury.
Initial reports suggest that accommodation and camping are trending upwards. Activities are flat or down slightly, compared to previous years.
The number of visitors at the Wells Gray Infocenter was down slightly.
“Although this number seems troubling, all the shortfall can be accounted for due to the reduction in bus traffic, down by 130 busses against 2012,” Bradbury said.
“After having spoken to three tour companies, access to the center during the construction of the roundabout was cited as the reason for not stopping.”
Bradbury believed that visitor numbers would have been up significantly at the Infocenter if the roundabout had not been under construction.
Hotels and motels in town reported an 18 per cent increase over 2012, while camping and RVs in town were up nine per cent.
Accommodations in Wells Gray Park were up 10 per cent over last year. Camping and RVs in the park were up 11 per cent.
Only one local tourism operation reported a marked decrease in business – by 23 per cent. Bradbury could not explain why.
Most activity operators in Clearwater and the park reported revenue down slightly against 2012, possibly due to weather and a lack of group business.
Tourism Wells Gray continues to carry out a wide variety of marketing initiatives, he reported.
These include advertising in the Thompson Okanagan travel guide and participating in trade shows in Vancouver, Penticton and Abbotsford.
A new website is to be launched in December, while a comprehensive set of visitor profiles should be available by early January.
About 95 per cent of tourism businesses, trails and attractions in Wells Gray Park and surrounding areas have been correctly geo-tagged. Of these, 80 per cent had been incorrectly tagged, Bradbury noted. For example, some located in the park were shown on the map to be in Clearwater.
Councillor Shelley Sim asked what is being done to increase tourism in the off-season.
Products such as dog tours, skiing, and snowshoeing are being developed and promoted, Bradbury said.
Sports events such as the provincial softball championships held in Clearwater last summer have proven worthwhile and he expects he will be working with District of Clearwater’s sports coordinator to get more.