The District of 100 Mile House is facing a $40,450 dent in its merchandise sales and facility rental revenues this year.
Council on Tuesday amended its 2020 financial plan to reflect the “drastic decrease” in revenue, which is being blamed on COVID-19. The pandemic resulted in the South Cariboo Visitors’ Centre being closed from March to June, resulting in a 75 percent drop in the number of visitors compared to the same time last year. The Martin Exeter Hall has also been shuttered for safety reasons and ongoing repairs as a result of flooding.
The decrease in revenues, coupled with higher expenses, means a net loss of about $129,000 compared with last year, CAO Roy Scott said.
“The travelling public is down from my understanding,” Scott said. “What it affects is the year-end balance and how much money the district has to pump into the budget to support it.”
Julie Gilmore, the visitor services coordinator at South Cariboo Visitor Centre, said the number of tourists has started to rebound from July to early September, thanks to a steady flow of B.C. visitors and staycationers heading to the region and its neighbouring lakes. Some 3,455 visitors passed through town the past three months, compared with 4,156 during the same period last year. During the Labour Day weekend and the first week of September, meanwhile, 285 visitors, dropped into the centre.
“Usually what we find in September is we get a lot of empty nesters and seniors coming because it’s less populated,” she said. “We’re doing pretty good with the staycation travellers and BC residents.”
However, many of those visitors are keeping a tight hold on their wallets. Although the centre typically sees strong sales in sweatshirts, keychains, maple syrup, chocolate and cribbage boards, Gilmore said this year the focus has been on the odd t-shirt or on maps and books by local authors such as historian Marianne Van Osch.
“We were doing very well and then it dropped,” she said, noting the three-month closure played a factor. “We’re not doing a lot of souvenir sales. We are still seeing our t-shirts move and some jewelry points but people aren’t spending as much. Books are going up and maps … people want a little bit more history, they want to learn about the area.”
Gilmore notes the drop in merchandise sales will have an effect on her budget next year, although she’s not sure by how much at this point. The budget will likely fluctuate further during the year before it’s finalized by the district council next spring.
“It’s definitely going to affect my budget next year going forward. That will set the tone for what I’m able to purchase next year,” she said, but noted “This year I didn’t spend a lot because lots of things weren’t being brought in or delivered. I could probably go another summer on what I have.”