September long weekend numbers show valley’s economy is recovering

A wrap-up of the busy long weekend that came with Labour Day

The Labour Day long weekend drew crowds of visitors to the upper Columbia Valley, giving a welcome boost to many businesses in the area.

The valley’s visitor centres reported higher tourist numbers this year than the recorded for last year’s Labour Day long weekend and many major businesses and resort said they were near capacity for the three-day vacation and the Friday before it.

The Invermere Visitors Centre at the crossroads had 146 groups (or 308 individuals) Friday through Monday — exactly the same number as it did last year, but the downtown visitor kiosk had an increase compared with last year and had 56 groups (97 people).

“The downtown kiosk was way up this year,” said Columbia Valley visitor centre manager Kathy Tyson, who added the downtown kiosk was closed on the long weekend Sunday last year, while this year it was closed on the long weekend Monday. Monday is the final day of the vacation and many visitors were likely already on the way home by then, according to Ms. Tyson “That may have made the difference,” she said, adding that the downtown kiosk is now closed for the season.

The visitor centre in Radium had 1,243 visitors during the weekend, 350 more than the centre saw during Labour Day long weekend last year, according to Tourism Radium’s event co-ordinator Kara Cassidy.

“It was a huge increase,” said Ms. Cassidy, adding the market and music on main were particularly successful.

“It was really busy in Radium; traffic was just crazy on Monday,” she said.

Copper Point Resort had a standout weekend, said general manager Amanada Robinson.

“It was our best revenue weekend the resort has ever experienced,” said Ms. Robinson, adding the resort was completely full for the three days and had two weddings.

“It was amazing, smooth and great,” she said.

Ms. Robinson also helps head up the Columbia Valley Tourism Marketing Committee and said other tourism business owners in that group expressed similar sentiments about the Labour Day long weekend.

The valley is finally starting to recover from the economic downturn, said Ms. Robinson.

“We had an amazing weekend, it was busy, full and everything was just great,” said Fairmont Hot Springs marketing manager Fiona Cull, adding guests at the RV campground were finally able to use the new bridge.

“We definitely were impacted by the June 20th Calgary floods but August has been great, really strong. We’ve really bounced back for sure this past month, so we’re delighted with how it’s gone,” said Ms. Cull, adding that perhaps many people planning on coming to the valley earlier in the summer simply deferred their vacations plans until later, making the final month a boon to the resort.

The high visitors numbers during the long weekend may also be a result of a late school start date in Calgary, said Ms. Cull.

“It’s been a been a big year for us,” said Ms. Cull, adding last summer (when a debris slide hit Fairmont Hot Springs) was a challenge, but businesses have done a lot of work and seem to be recovering.

“It was really a strong weekend for us,” said Panorama Mountain Village marketing manager Scott Morgan, adding Sunday, September 1st was the resort’s busiest day of the summer in terms of chairlift uses, with 600 different visitors taking lift that day. Mr. Morgan said the first-ever Grizzly Panorama Trail Marathon race helped boost numbers that day.

“It definitely was a huge day for us; business levels were really strong,” said Mr. Morgan. “We’re definitely up (in visitors numbers) from the Labour Day long weekend last year. It was a really great finish to the summer.”

Both of Copper Point’s golf courses were more or less booked solid for the whole four-day vacation.

“It was actually a great weekend, we were really busy,” said the courses’ general manager Brian Schaal, adding the course were even packed on the Monday (which is typically the slowest business day of a long weekend) and Tuesday (the first day after the vacation).

“We’re really happy with the numbers and it seems like all our remaining weekends up until September 28th are going to be full as well, so it looks like we’ll have a good close to the season,” said Mr. Schaal.