After several years of growth, the number of tourists visiting the Sooke Region dropped this summer amid the uncertainty of new salmon fishing regulations.
Officials in both Sooke and Port Renfrew said the numbers weren’t as “devastating” as first expected when the federal government announced new regulations last spring.
Although official numbers aren’t available yet, the drop in fishing had an obvious effect on restaurants, stores and other businesses, said Karl Ablack, vice-president of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce
“It seemed a lot quieter,” he said.
In Sooke, the story is much the same as Lee Boyko, the executive director of the Sooke Region Museum and the Visitor Information Centre, estimated that after several years of increases in tourist traffic, the numbers this year are down by about four per cent.
“I wouldn’t attribute all of that to the fishing situation, although that didn’t help,” Boyko said.
“We didn’t do the same promotion on the Pacific Marine Circle Route this year, and we have a plan to get a destination fund in place that would help with this kind of promotion.”
The destination fund requires hotels to add a small charge onto every bill to promote tourism. Several other Greater Victoria municipalities already have charges in place.
But Ablack stressed that it’s not all bad news for the region.
“Port Renfrew is open for business and the increased interest in our old-growth forests and other attractions continue to give the community an optimistic future.”
He added that despite the blows to the salmon fishery early in the season, the fishing in Port Renfrew and up and down the coast is outstanding right now.
“It’s one of the best (salmon) runs that we’ve had. I think that with the move to a marked fishery, we’ll see that the sort of regulation that were imposed this year doesn’t make sense,” Ablack said.
“This is still a great place to visit, and it’s only going to get better.”