Kelly-Ann Argue steers Cady, the eight-year-old waffle cone eating Clydesdale, along the streets of Chemainus for tourists. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Tourist numbers in Chemainus keep rising as summer progresses

Visitors from the Netherlands the leading country of origin

The tourism season in Chemainus typically gathers steam as the year wears on and that’s exactly the trend being seen in 2019 again.

While tourism overall is down slightly, it’s always difficult to make comparisons to previous years with everything not being equal.

“Last year was the B.C. Games and the Indigenous Elders Conference so those were two big things going on,” said Chemainus & District Chamber of Commerce executive director Lori Frankson.

The Chemainus Visitor Centre compiles statistics on tourist visits and those numbers released by manager Emily Weeks show a steady climb the last three months.

There were 4,744 total visitors and 101 tour buses in May; 6,445 visitors and 136 tour buses in June; and 8,625 visitors and 171 tour buses in July.

The top reason for visiting in each of the three months was the world famous murals. The most inquiries after that were: where to eat, where to stay, where to park and wineries.

A lot of the tourists are repeat tourists,” added Frankson. “We’re getting a lot more relocation packages.”

Those packages include pamphlets from North Cowichan, Chemainus guides and other material, with many people following up later to consider whether residing in this area might figure into their future plans.

“We constantly hear everybody really loves the murals and loves the community,” Frankson indicated.

“They love how clean it is and the weather.”

There’s an interesting cross-section of people visiting the community from tour groups. Overall, the country of origin leading the pack is the Netherlands followed by Australia, Japan and Great Britain.

By month, it has varied substantially, with Canada first, the Netherlands second and Australia third in May; China first, Netherlands second and Australia third in June; and Netherlands first, Germany second and Australia third in July.

Of the roving tourists, the bulk are from Canada, with many from the United States arriving by boat and Germans arriving by R.V.

The Chemainus Theatre is obviously a huge draw for the community, especially the last two years. Last summer’s record-setting performances of Grease have already been surpassed as the show with the most all-time ticket sales by Mamma Mia! that continues until the end of August.

The horse-drawn Chemainus Tours carriage rides, owned by Jim Bangle, remain popular.

“Tourism from the tours point of view has started out a bit below average but is picking up,” noted driver Kelly-Ann Argue. “I find the amount of local people bringing their own guests seem to be up from previous years. There are quite a few people from the kids plays at the theatre that are enjoying an after show carriage ride too. Perhaps the offer of a free ice cream cone at Scoops may be enticing as well. If August continues like the past week, things may be above average.”

The tourist season typically remains strong in September before dropping off during October.

“A lot of the people travelling in September are the people without children,” noted Frankson.

Overall, “I think it’s starting earlier and it’s lasting a little bit longer,” she added.

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