Cathy Witton and grandson Ryder Howich make some big bubbles at the Bathtub Days Street Fair in downtown Nanaimo in July. Tourism operators say festivals

Cathy Witton and grandson Ryder Howich make some big bubbles at the Bathtub Days Street Fair in downtown Nanaimo in July. Tourism operators say festivals

Summer festivals drive Nanaimo tourism

NANAIMO – Tourism operators say they had best June since 2008.

Nanaimo’s tourist industry is enjoying its best summer tourist season since 2008.

Tourism Nanaimo credits summer festivals such as the Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival and events such as the B.C. Athletics Jamboree for driving up tourism numbers and packing hotels from Ladysmith to Qualicum through the July 10-11 weekend.

Dan Brady, Nanaimo Hospitality Association chairman and the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation’s appointed tourism committee representative, said local tourism statistics are finally getting back to pre-recession levels.

“June, in Nanaimo, that was our best June – we’re at 70-per cent occupancy – that’s the best it has been since 2008,” Brady said.

The hospitality association represents Nanaimo’s 24 hotels, motels and other accommodations providers.

According to a report by Chemistry Business and Human Resource Consulting, year-to-date figures are up from 2014 across the board for daily room rate occupancy, room rates and revenue.

The same is true for foot passenger and vehicle traffic at B.C. Ferries’ Duke Point and Departure Bay terminals. Showing the biggest year-to-date gains are the Nanaimo Airport with 138,430 passengers through its terminal, up 13.9 per cent, and the Vancouver Island Conference Centre, hosting 12,135 delegates for an 89.9 per cent jump over 2014.

Tourism Nanaimo also reports more than 7,000 people visited its Northfield and Bastion visitor centres – up seven per cent over 2014’s second quarter. About 10 per cent of those were visitors from the U.S. compared to four per cent in 2014.

The average length of visitors’ stays is longer too, about seven to 14 days and each visitor spends about $130 per day.

Brady and  Lesley Anderson, Tourism Nanaimo executive director, credit favourable tourism numbers with the currently low loonie, which is drawing more U.S. visitors and causing locals to vacation close to home. Sports events and summer festivals are big draws, too.

“There are a variety of contributing factors,” Anderson said. “The dollar is a good one. It encourages people to stay-cation, for one, but also Canada and Vancouver Island are a great value.”

“Everything’s helping,” Brady said. “It’s a bit of everything.”

To read the full report, please visit

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