As predicted, the number of visitors passing through Fernie were down through 2020 – at least going by the data collected by the Visitor Information Centre (VIC) in town.
For the whole year, 22,298 visitors passed through the doors of the VIC – down from 2019 when there were just over 27,000 visitors.
It’s not all bad though – quite far from it. The numbers overall for Fernie hide modest improvements for the Winter (Jan-Mar) and Fall (Oct-Dec) seasons, and compared to other communities around the province, Fernie did well.
In presenting the numbers to a Committee of the Whole of the City of Fernie, Brad Parsell of the Fernie Chamber of Commerce (which operates the VIC) said that Fernie’s stats were “not nearly as dire as what was seen in other communities” in 2020, noting that Fernie enjoyed it’s busiest winter ever – right before the pandemic hit.
Fall numbers were also higher, with 3,727 visitors in 2020 compared to 2,911 in 2019.
As expected, Spring numbers (Apr-Jun) were well down from 6,679 in 2019 to 3,703 in 2020, reflecting the time of year when the full force of the pandemic hit the travel industry.
Summer was also down, but comparatively the numbers weren’t as ugly as Spring. Over Jul-Sept 2019, 15,430 visitors passed through the VIC, while 12,115 visited in 2020. The Summer months through 2020 were marked by low infection rates and relaxed social distancing rules, with Canadians opting to spend time outdoors and hit up the idyllic Elk Valley.
The numbers, however, only reflect those who come through the doors of the VIC, so are only a partial indicator of tourism traffic through the town.
Notably, while numbers through the doors were down, Parsell said that numbers of visitors using the VIC parking area remained high, as the centre sits at multiple popular trail-heads.
For it’s part, the Fernie VIC was the only centre in British Columbia to stay open all the way through 2020, with Parsell noting the team working at the centre went “above and beyond” to comply with health orders.
Comparing Fernie to other communities around the region, things were actually (relatively) good for Fernie. As mentioned, there were 22,298 visitors through the doors of the Fernie VIC – a modest reduction of a little under 5,000 compared to 2019 – while Revelstoke, which saw over 60,000 visitors in 2019 cratered to 18,744 in 2020, a fall of almost 70 per cent.
Nelson didn’t fall quite as hard, but still lost almost half its visitors, going from 22,491 visitors in 2020 to 12,373 in 2020.
Meanwhile, reigning champion of VIC numbers, Sparwood clocked in 49,768 visitors in 2020, making it the premier VIC of the Kootenays by a country mile last year. It’s not a fluke either: in 2019, Sparwood was still top dog, beating Revelstoke by tallying 61,440 visitors.
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