A very good summer for tourism in Kimberley

Overall visits to information centre up 25 per cent; hotel spend up 16.6 per cent

Inquiries at the VIsitors Centre about mountain biking continue to rise.

Inquiries at the VIsitors Centre about mountain biking continue to rise.

If you have noticed that Kimberley seems busier this summer, you are not mistaken. Kimberley is having a very good summer in terms of tourism, says Jesse Ferguson of Tourism Kimberley.

“It’s been really busy,” Ferguson said. “From what we are tracking we are noticing a big increase. Last summer was a good year too, but this year, just in terms of people walking through the door of the Visitors’ Centre, we are seeing a 25 per cent increase. The hotel spend so far this summer — that’s how much money is spent on hotels — is 16.6 per cent up.”

There are many things you can attribute the growth to, Ferguson says, some Tourism Kimberley can control, and others they can’t.

“First and foremost we’ve been promoting our new Kimberley branding plan for four years now. When we started the plan, we knew it would take time. We are starting to see it pay off.”

Another factor is the American dollar, but not in the way you might think.

“People would assume that we would see a big increase in American visitors, and we are seeing more American tourists, but the big factor is, fewer people are going to the States. They are staying in Canada and lot of them are coming here.

“Then there’s the whole oil crisis in Alberta. The prediction was that Albertans wouldn’t travel, but that didn’t prove true. What’s true is they are travelling, but these people that might have flown to Vancouver and golfed Whistler — these guys are not spending as much. They come here. It’s one third the price and the quality is great. Word is getting around about that. Kimberley has awesome golf and is a really good value.

The other big market that is growing every year is adventure tourism, especially mountain bikers.

“It’s huge,” Ferguson said. “By far our biggest request at the Visitor Centre is for trail maps and mountain bike rentals.”

Having high profile events such as the Single Track 6 come through Kimberley is invaluable as well, he says.

“Single Track 6 is a huge, international event. When people hear that it was in Kimberley, they  think, ‘Kimberley must be worth riding’.”

As the summer season winds down, Tourism Kimberley turns its attention to the coming winter, booking ski shows — mainly in Canada, but a few in the northwest U.S. as well.

“Last winter was pretty good, quite a lot ahead of the previous winter, although you will remember that winter was a low snow year. But we had a very strong winter. Over the December to March season, the hotel spend was up 20 per cent.”