Tourism numbers for the Columbia Valley have taken a bit of a hit this summer, and word of the Fairmont Hot Springs mudslide could no doubt have had some effect.
Examining July and August visitor numbers compared to last year, the overall number of visitors for passing through the Radium Hot Springs visitors centre and the Crossroads visitors centre at the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce have fallen overall. In Radium, visitors numbers for July of 2012 were 11,994 as compared to 12,980 in 2011, while for August 2012 (with a few days to go) numbers were actually up, with 12,789 as compared to 10,540 in 2011. At the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce visitors centre, total visitors dipped from a July 2011 total of 3,443 to 2,304 in July of 2012, and fell from 2,986 in August of 2011 to 2,129 in 2012, again with a few days left to tally.
Two Fairmont business owners agree that after a dramatic mudslide forced Fairmont Hot Springs Resort to close for three weeks, their businesses suffered greatly.
“You can’t prepare for something like that,” said Ron Looye, owner of Beachbound in Fairmont Hot Springs. “That’s something you really can’t plan for.”
Looye, who has had his Fairmont location up and running since last year, said that in the weeks leading up to the landslide, his numbers were actually higher than they were as compared to last year, partially because of improved weather. For the period that the resort was closed, he estimates that he lost 50 per cent of his business. To this day, over a month after the mudslide and several weeks after the resort has reopened, he said his numbers still haven’t recovered, and that he is still seeing about a 20 to 25 per cent decrease in business. What Looye believes to be part of the problem is that he thinks many people feel that Fairmont was too badly damaged to visit in the future, despite their subsequent reopening.
“There are people out there who think Fairmont is gone,” he said. “Everybody is down by varying amounts, but there isn’t anything we can do about it.”
Owner of Bavin Glassworks, Pat Bavin, was quick to agree, saying that from his experience may people have actually associated the Fairmont mudslide with the recent landslide in Johnson’s Landing which trapped four people.
“It’s been absolutely crazy,” Bavin said. “There’s been a lot of confusion, and a lot of misunderstanding.”
Bavin recently opened up a new location in Fairmont Hot Spring, and said that now, three weeks after the reopening of the resort, numbers have finally begun to return to what they were prior to the mudslide. Bavin was forced to close the new location while the resort was closed, and feels like that could have also impacted their main location near Invermere, as many people are referred to the main gallery after seeing pieces in the smaller location in Fairmont.
“We just feel very fortunate that Fairmont Hot Springs Resort does so well, it has a huge base of weekly arrivals,” Bavin said. “We feel very fortunate to be connected with it.”