Tourism numbers are up in Ladysmith and Chemainus

It seems more people have been checking out the "little gems" in the Cowichan Valley this summer.

With significant increases in visitors, phone calls and bus tours, the Cowichan Valley has proven itself the place to be this summer.

Visitor centres in Ladysmith and Chemainus are reporting increases as high as 36.4 per cent in some areas, as compared to last year’s numbers.

Chemainus Visitor Centre co-ordinator Marlie Kelsey said Chemainus’ upbeat attitude and local events brought an increase of 21.3 per cent (7,324 people) to the centre in August, while in July, Chemainus experienced a 19.2-per-cent increase.

From April to June, the Chemainus Visitor Centre recorded a 36.4-per-cent increase in overall tourism (determined by the averages of total parties, visitors and bus tours).

“The many events we’ve had going on draw people in — ArtBeat, which is a new Friday night art walk; the Theatre, which is celebrating 20 years this year … and the murals,” said Kelsey.

“And no matter what you have heard or what you read, the murals are still a major draw to the community.”

Chemainus has seen tourists from a variety of different locales, including Europe, Australia and Japan.

This year, for the first time, there have been a significant number of French-Canadian visitors from Quebec, Kelsey said.

“We’ve had an increase in bus tourism this year, without a doubt,” she said.

Some of the many summer events in Chemainus this year have included Music in the Park, a Wednesday market and music festivals.

“There’s a really good buzz in our town this year — there seems to be a real enthusiasm despite that we have some issues that are challenging us,” Kelsey said. “It’s a very positive atmosphere. Everybody’s working together to make it a neat place to live and come visit.”

Total visitors to the Ladysmith Visitor Centre in May were up 21.9 per cent, and numbers went up almost 11 per cent in the month of July and 7.7 per cent in August.

Phone calls to the tourist office were up 34.5 per cent from April to June, with a total of 386 calls.

“It’s definitely been up and busy,” said Jacquie Chellew of the Visitor Centre. “I think maybe people are not looking to go to the big cities and they’re checking out the little gems we have around here.”