City of Fernie welcome sign. (File photo)

City of Fernie welcome sign. (File photo)

2020 not as bad as predicted, more of the same in 2021 (for now): Tourism Fernie

Hotel revenues were down by 26 percent last year, but numbers were expected to be twice as bad originally

The tourism numbers for 2020 weren’t a complete disaster, as it turns out, with the numbers in Fernie being about half as bad as originally predicted.

Hotel accommodation revenues were down 26 percent last year compared with 2019 – though the tourism industry had been expecting those numbers to be between 40 and 50 percent down.

“Summer was super strong for us, and we were able to save some if the Fall season as well which was very positive, and we continue to adjust our forecasts as we go,” said Jikke Gyorki of Tourism Fernie.

Tourism Fernie calculates how well the accommodation sector is going by the Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT) – or ‘hotel tax’ – which is a three percent tax on short-term accommodation in participating areas around B.C.

Due to lags in reporting, the numbers for the final months of 2020 have only just come in. Together with the Visitor Information Centre (VIC) visitor numbers, the tourism sector in Fernie can paint an imprecise but telling picture of how things went in the year of the pandemic.

Numbers last Winter were good, while Spring was a wash, Summer wasn’t as bad as predicted and Fall was a pleasant surprise for the industry, with tourism dollars following the waxing and waning of pandemic numbers, and limits on travel.

Gyorki said that thanks to a bounce in tourism numbers through Summer, and continuous corporate travel, Fernie was able to do a lot better than predicted – as did many other communities with similar tourism profiles.

“Any community that’s like Fernie did similar in terms of doing a lot better than they initially expected to do, because it became quite evident early on that if travel was going to open, there was going to be pent up demand, people were going to go where there was wide open spaces, fewer faces and get outside. All of the Kootenay region, for the most part, saw that the numbers were not down to the level they were expecting.”

The numbers B.C.-wide were pulled down mostly by the big cities, said Gyorki, with some municipalities down by around 80 percent.

While accommodators didn’t do as poorly as predicted, other sectors of the industry suffered greatly from the closed border with the U.S.

Looking ahead, the sector is predicting a summer not unlike 2020 for this year – though with the COVID-19 vaccination program seemingly ramping up, there was some optimism creeping in.

Gyorki said that changes to the vaccination program moving faster were hard not to get excited about, but the tourism industry had become used to big changes overnight.

“I think we have to continue to be cautious obviously and not get ahead of ourselves – its still going to take a bit of time to get through this – but so far all the numbers are positive, and looking very optimistic for having a good summer.”

Tourism Fernie will be hosting it’s AGM next Wednesday (March 31) where attendees will get an industry update for the sector. To attend, email Tourism Fernie for details.

READ MORE: By the numbers: Fernie’s Visitor Information Centre holds the line through 2020



scott.tibballs@thefreepress.ca
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