British Columbia

Canadian dollar's dip creates tourism boom in Victoria, B.C.

After a rough decade for the Canadian tourism industry, Tourism Victoria's president Paul Nursey says things are looking up.

Clear skies, warm weather and a dropping loonie boosts tourism in B.C.'s capital city

American travellers are more likely to take an extra whale watching trip while visiting B.C. this summer because the low Canadian dollar, says Paul Nursey (Heather MacIntyre/Nature's Keeper Photography)

Clear skies, warm temperatures and a dropping loonie have meant tourism in B.C.'s capital city of Victoria is booming.

June's hotel occupancy rate was 83.7 percent -  the highest in 20 years.

"We've fully recovered to pre-2008 levels," said Paul Nursey, CEO and President of Tourism Victoria. "We're very much into strong growth mode."

It's been a rough decade or more for the tourism industry in Canada, says Nursey.

First the industry struggled due to fears of travelling generated by the SARS outbreak in 2003, then it was hurt by the financial crisis in 2008, and finally it saw a drop of American tourists when changes required U.S. citizens to have passports to enter Canada.

The situation has been slowly improving over the last several years and right now the low Canadian dollar, worth 76 cents US, is having an impact in several ways.

First, it keeps Canadians home and makes them more likely to travel within Canada, says Nursey, adding about 81 per cent of Canada's tourism business is actually domestic.

Second, American travelers are much more free spending when they arrive in Canada because their dollar is of a tremendous value compared to its Canadian counterpart, says Nursey, adding tourists are more likely to go on an extra whale watching trip or pay to see more attractions.

The growth has meant hotels are starting to reinvest more, with the Hotel Grand Pacific and The Fairmont Empress Hotel putting millions of dollars into improving their accommodations.

Recent policy announcements such as a $17.4-million investment to upgrade the Belleville Ferry Terminal have also helped, says Nursey.