After a slow start, tourists are returning to the South Cariboo.
The South Cariboo Visitor Centre reported a 65.7 percent decline in tourist numbers in July – with 1,792 visitors compared with 5,224 in 2019, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, those numbers are starting to climb month over month, visitor service coordinator Julie Gilmore, noting that in June only 1,357 people stopped by the centre.
“We’re slowly going up in our numbers,” she said. “In all fairness, we’re just dealing with B.C. (visitors). You can see how the international market affects us here.”
Gilmore said the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people are travelling. Many are now calling ahead to get information on the area, or to book sites, while the tourist centre continues to reach out to potential visitors through social media or radio spots. The South Cariboo is proving to be a huge attraction to B.C. residents during this time.
“We have a vast area of lakes and people are comfortable coming into the area and doing social distancing,” she said. “We’re lucky.”
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Visitor centre staff have also changed the way they deal with the public. As many tourists are stopping at the centre but not coming inside, staff is going outside to them to provide advice or information on local tourist spots.
We’re trying our best. We knew it was going to be difficult going in,” Gilmore said. “We’re certainly sending them to the downtown core to visit our unique shops. It’s certainly a different summer through this pandemic but we’re all willing to support each other locally.