Tourism operators are seeing plenty of visitors to Nanaimo this year.

Tourism operators are seeing plenty of visitors to Nanaimo this year.

Nanaimo’s tourism season bustling with U.S., Alberta visitors

NANAIMO – Operators credit low Canadian dollar for attracting international tourists to region.

As the days creep closer to September and the end of the summer travel season, some Nanaimo tourism and hospitality businesses are experiencing a surge in customers.

For Leif Bogwald, owner of Vancouver Island Expeditions, business has been significantly busier this year compared to last year.

“Twice as busy than last year, or more than twice as busy, actually,” he said.

Bogwald, whose company offers a variety of tour packages throughout Nanaimo and Vancouver Island, said he’s seen more American customers as well as more Canadians who have stayed in the country due to the lower dollar.

Meanwhile, for Dave Ilyn, owner for the Buccaneer Inn, this summer has been the best in 21 years.

Ilyn said he has also seen an increase in guests particularly from Washington, Oregon, Michigan and Texas, as well as guests from Canada and Europe.

“We’ve seen an increase in guests from the U.S.,” he said. “We’ve seen more people from B.C. staying in the province than travelling.”

Earlier this year, Tourism Nanaimo launched two marketing campaigns, Share Vancouver Island and Nanaimo Top Ten, both which aim to capitalize on a lower Canadian dollar and attract more visitors to the Harbour City.

John Hankins, chief executive officer for Tourism Nanaimo, said the Share Vancouver Island campaign is targeted directly to those living in Washington state, adding that television ads are airing on KOMO 4 News and KIRO Television.

“The purpose of that campaign is to influence people before they actually  get on the ferry … so they are actually thinking about Nanaimo ahead of time,” he said.

The Nanaimo Top Ten campaign has already launched in Alberta, according to Hankins, who said despite the economic downturn, the province is an important market for Nanaimo and British Columbia as a whole.

“That’s where [tourists] have been coming from,” Hankins said. “If you just look around there seems to be a significant number of Alberta licence plates.”

Bogwald said he believes that Nanaimo is on the cusp of becoming a much more popular tourist destination, especially for those in the Pacific Northwest.

“So many people now, especially from Washington state or even Oregon or even the mainland have all done Tofino and Victoria especially and now they are looking for more things to do,” he said. “So I think we are well-situated to get a lot of that traffic because we do have a lot of things that people want.”