The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a steep drop in tourists to the Castlegar Visitor Centre, according to Castlegar Chamber of Commerce executive director Tammy Verigin-Burk.
When comparing the first nine months of 2019 to 2020, the number of people that walked through the visitor centre’s doors dropped by over 50 per cent from 8,500 to 4,122.
Verigin-Burke emphasized the numbers don’t paint the whole picture of the story.
“One reason for the drop is because the visitor centre was closed for a couple months due to the crisis. We also saw more people just pass by and use our sani-dump,” said Verigin-Burk.
“A third reason is that we had a number of people about to enter the centre to try and use our washroom facilities. Since they were closed, they would come to the door, turn around and go. That was a bit challenging for us.”
Despite the decrease, the centre saw a huge uptick in the amount of visitors from across Canada. Quebecers and Albertans were the most common out-of-province visitors.
Verigin-Burk says the makeup of visitors from across B.C. has changed because of the crisis.
“Typically, people from the Lower Mainland would travel to the Okanagan or take Highway 1 and travel to the Jasper area. We normally don’t see a huge influx of people from that region.” said Verigin-Burk.
“However they were our most common visitors out of anywhere else in B.C. this year”
Tourists stayed significantly longer in Castlegar when comparing August of 2019 to 2020. The number of visitors that stayed one night in the area increased by 100 per cent and the number of people that stayed three nights increased by 400 per cent.
More tourists also decided to visit Castlegar later in 2020 because of the pandemic.
“With a lot of parents deciding to homeschool their children this year, we’ve seen more families stop by the visitor centre than we normally do in the fall,” said Verigin-Burk.
“We’ve actually had more people visit us in September of 2020 than September of 2019.”
In terms of general inquiries, tourists requesting information about rock climbing spiked during the summer of 2020. While the visitor centre typically only sells a few of their rock climbing guides in July and August, they sold out of the books twice during the same period this year.
Verigin-Burke also received more inquires about real estate and businesses licenses this year with the surge in regional visitors.