Nelson is seeing a rise in tourism after the province moved to Phase 3 of its reopening plan. The majority of guests at The Adventure Hotel are coming from within B.C. Photo: Tyler Harper

Tourists returning to Nelson area as province slowly re-opens

Local accommodations are reporting more guests who are staying for shorter periods

One month ago Rob Little couldn’t pay someone to take a room at The Adventure Hotel.

But as tourists — yes, there are plenty of tourists coming to Nelson — start showing up, the hotel’s general manager says business is approaching what he might have described as typical in years past.

“Don’t get me wrong, we certainly haven’t made up for what’s been lost over the last three months, not even remotely close to it,” he said.

“But we are now back on pace with last year’s numbers for summertime, in the room side of things, so that’s very positive. A lot better than we thought it would be.”

Tourism across B.C. began its recovery on June 24 when the provincial government announced it was moving to Phase 3 of its restart plan that allows for non-essential travel within the province as well as visitors from Alberta and the Yukon.

When the Star spoke to Little in April, just one of the 40 rooms at the hotel was occupied. On Friday, Little said occupancy is currently up 11 per cent for the month of July over last year. He added visitors are staying for less time than they use to, and there are few bookings made for August.

“The turnovers are fairly quick. One night to night type of situation, and then moving on,” he said.

The reason for this may be that tourists are changing their travel plans to adjust for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dianna Ducs, executive director of Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism (NKLT), says visitors are making last-minute bookings because of ever-changing nature of what’s allowed and what’s safe in B.C.

“They don’t want to book too far in advance because they don’t know what the future looks like,” she said. “We don’t know. In two weeks from now we could all be shut down again. So there’s that hesitation.”

Ducs said accommodations in the region, which for her runs from the southern tip of Kootenay Lake in Wynndel to north to Riondel, have reported 70-100 per cent occupancy this month.

The demographics of tourists are also changing. Ducs said people aged 60 years and older aren’t travelling because they are at a higher risk for health complications if infected by the virus. The majority of visitors, she said, are young people interested in outdoor activities.

“They’re not people coming here for arts and culture because there’s no events going on. They’re not coming here just to sit in the theatre, because that’s not happening,” she said.

“It is the more outdoor adventure-based people, so yes you are going to be seeing more people with paddle boards, mountain bikes, road biking, any kind of outdoor activity. That’s definitely more popular right now.”

Ducs said her biggest job right now is trying to communicate safety to travellers on the NKLT website. She’s also begun a new campaign called BE S.M.A.R.T., which stands for Stay Home if unwell, Measure physical distance, Appropriate behaviour is essential, Respect protocols and culture of the area and Together through smart choices everyone can enjoy the region.

“British Columbia has been voicing strongly that we need to stay home, but if you need to go somewhere be safe, and go to where there are open spaces and less spaces,” she said. “We fit that description perfectly.”

@tyler_harper | tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

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