The bad news is that overall tourist numbers in the Columbia Valley were down these past two summer months. The good news is given the torrential rainfall leading up to July and the mudslide that traversed across Fairmont Hot Springs mid-summer, the decrease is negligible compared to what it could have been.
With out-of-town visitors possibly confusing the Fairmont mudslide — in which not a single person was injured — with the Johnsons Landing mudslide that killed several people, potential tourists may have looked elsewhere for their summer vacation plans, lending to the overall drop in numbers.
Radium reports a drop of 986 visitors in July compared to last year, while the month of August was actually up a whopping 2,249. The visitor centre at Invermere’s crossroads recorded a decrease from last year’s numbers of 1,139 in July while August saw a reduction of 857.
But one only has to look at this past summer’s nonstop action in the valley to get an idea of what this region can capitalize on in order to win tourists back, and continue to attract new ones. Longtime favourites such as the Heart of the Rockies triathlon, Loop the Lake, the Lakeside Fly-In Event, Summerlude, Tour of the Arts, the Columbia Basin Culture Tour, the Mountain Mosaic Festival of the Arts, Hoodstock, the Chamber Music Festival, Music on Main and the various farmers’ markets brought incredible amounts of fun, culture and zest to our local communities. Then there were the inaugural events, the first annual East Kootenay Beer Festival and Steamboat Mountain Music Festival, not to mention the 2nd annual Backwoods Blues Festival still in its infancy, the one-off shows and performances at local venues, plus the incredible push by the local art galleries to bring in world-renowned artists and showcase their work. And lest we not forget, downtown Invermere was flooded with thousands of people after the Canada Day parade.
Next summer is bound to be just as exciting, probably with even more new events after the winter months give rise to some great, creative ideas. How comprehensive the regional marketing strategy is for the Columbia Valley is unclear but there’s no doubt this region is a hot spot destination for anyone travelling in and around B.C.