Home base for Tourism Fernie. (Phil McLachlan/The Free Press)

Home base for Tourism Fernie. (Phil McLachlan/The Free Press)

Tourism Fernie optimistic for 2022 after better-than-expected 2021

Visitor numbers are hoped to return to pre-pandemic levels this year

2021 was a year of cautious optimism that was ‘partially fulfilled’ according to Tourism Fernie’s executive director, Jikke Gyorki.

Speaking at the Tourism Fernie Annual General Meeting on Mar. 30, Gyorki said that accommodation revenues (Tourism Fernie’s best metric for measuring visitation) for 2021 represented 90 percent on 2019 revenues – the last year before the COVID-19 pandemic bit into the industry. That number was better than expected (with a target of 85 percent), and was 22 percent above revenues in 2020, and numbers were driven by domestic visitors.

As Fernie is a driving destination that draws in mostly domestic tourism, “with the increase in domestic market we did much better than many other destinations,” said Gyorki.

Destinations with similar tourism draws fared much worse, like Golden, which had accommodation revenues down by over 25 percent for 2021 compared to 2019, while Whistler, where tourists are mostly international had hotel revenues halve.

Gyorki said that as Canada re-opened in stages through 2021, a challenge for Tourism Fernie was being able to welcome visitors from Kelowna and Vancouver before anywhere in Alberta – where most of Fernie’s visitors come from. For much of the year, Tourism Fernie could not actively market the area outside of B.C., which according to their statistics represents around 22 percent of Fernie’s visitors. (Over 60 percent come from Alberta alone).

That challenge had been weathered however, and now Tourism Fernie was looking ahead, with hopes that accommodation revenues could return to 2019 levels in 2022, “and we’re optimistic we can surpass that….we do expect 2022 to be better than 2019 for travel and visitation.”

Looking at expected expenses for 2022, Tourism Fernie has budgeted for just over $716K for marketing initiatives (up from $670K in 2021) and $418K for destination management initiatives (up from $149K in 2021).

Total expenses by Tourism Fernie for 2022 are expected to be a little over $1.3 million, up from $950K in 2021, with revenues drawn mostly from hotel taxes (60 percent of revenue) and grants.

The Tourism Fernie 2021 fiscal report will be available on the Tourism Fernie website.

READ MORE: Shane Koyczan: Getting back to the air

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