Trying to put a value on Prince Rupert tourism

It’s complicated and expensive to conduct meaningful research into tourism numbers.

It’s complicated and expensive to conduct meaningful research into tourism numbers. It was a real opportunity for us when Tourism BC chose to invest well over $100,000 in a specific visitor study in Prince Rupert in 2007. We update this as well as we can, and stay on top of developing trends, but the basis for our work in understanding the value of Prince Rupert tourism is the very accurate knowledge we gained from the Prince Rupert Visitor Study. This measured just three months, June through August of 2007, but analyzed our visitors in very great depth.

I’ve talked about this study in the column before. Just over $52 million tourism dollars were spent in Prince Rupert during those three months in 2007. I’d like to dig a little deeper into that total.

To begin with, spending was fairly evenly split between leisure and business travellers – about 57% of the spending came from leisure travellers, visitors who are here on holidays and strictly for pleasure, and about 43% from business travellers. That means that in June-August 2007, $29.7 million was spent by leisure travellers, and about $22.5 million by business travellers.

Considering the leisure segment first, the most valuable groups for Prince Rupert are the anglers, spending about $16.1 million, and the general overnight visitors, spending about $8.6 million. Cruise visitor spending, with two weekly ships, totaled about $4.8 million. Day trips by regional visitors accounted for just under $150,000.

Most of the business traveler spending is grouped under general business travel, with an expenditure of about $22.5 million, but the Visitor Study also broke out cruise ship crew spending for those three months at $1.7 million.

It’s important to realize that even if the specific numbers fluctuate from year to year, the percentages will remain more constant. That helps us understand the industry. This also holds true for the more specific data in the Visitor Study. For example, drilling a little farther into the general business spending, we know that in June-August 2007 the average amount spent each day per traveller is $396. But business travellers from BC spent more than this each day, the travellers from other parts of Canada spent almost exactly the average, and business travellers from the US and other international destinations spent considerably below the average. Once again, this knowledge helps us understand and convert on our business travellers.

Now, who benefits from this spending? I’ve heard people speculate that this revenue doesn’t stay in Prince Rupert. I find that mystifying. This is not an industry, such as the resource-based industries, where corporate profits are siphoned into distant shareholders. This is a homegrown industry, and the beneficiaries are for the most part our neighbours.

Bear in mind that these studies measure spending in Prince Rupert. They’re not measuring the cost of the transportation to get here, just the dollars that are going into businesses owned by people who live here, supporting local employment and spinning off into all aspects of the local economy.

I’ve forgotten the exact detail, but many years before my time the Visitors’ Bureau faced a similar situation where residents didn’t perfectly understand how tourism money trickled through the community. They marked a small stack of $5 bills with “this money came from tourism,” and distributed the bills to arriving cruise ship passengers. For months afterward the money circulated, showing up in the tills of businesses, and the pockets of residents, that didn’t see themselves as being in any way related to tourism.

That’s the point in all this. It’s vital to know how much the industry is worth to Prince Rupert, if we are to understand the return on investment for both Tourism Prince Rupert and for the individual businesses and attractions. Tourism money comes to Prince Rupert, stays and circulates here, and helps us sustain our community.

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