Tofino’s beaches are a key draw for tourists. (Westerly File Photo)

UPDATED: Tourism Tofino says town’s visitation generates $240 million annually

Economic impact and visitation study conducted by InterVISTAS Consulting Inc.

Tofino’s tourism industry generates $240 million of economic impact, according to the town’s destination marketing organization Tourism Tofino.

Tourism Tofino announced the staggering figure in a media release on Tuesday that explained an economic impact and visitation study conducted by InterVISTAS Consulting Inc. found that tourism supports 2,670 direct jobs—1,720 full-time equivalent jobs—generating $60 million in annual wages.

The release adds that Tofino hosted an estimated 600,000 visitors in 2018 and that local businesses serving those visitors contribute over $57 million in municipal, provincial and federal tax revenues.

“This comprehensive and robust study verifies the vital role that tourism plays in sustaining our community, delivering revenue to fund and support infrastructure and services, and contributing to the quality of life we enjoy as residents,” said Tourism Tofino chair J.J. Belanger. “An additional takeaway is the finding that the jobs created and supported by Tofino’s visitors and our tourism operators extend well beyond tourism and reach all sectors of our local and regional economy.”

Through the release, Tourism Tofino said it commissioned the study in an effort to “provide the community with data to shape responsible tourism decision-making, carefully protecting a sustainable future while supporting the livelihoods of residents and Tofino’s overall economic health.”

The 10-month project collected information through surveys at tourism-related businesses as well as the visitors themselves while also drawing on its own visitation statistics and information provided by the District of Tofino, Destination British Columbia and Destination Canada.

“The study provides us all with much greater precision on the levels of visitation and business experienced throughout the year in Tofino,” said Tourism Tofino’s executive director Nancy Cameron. “This research significantly deepens our understanding of the economic and community benefits derived from tourism, yet allows us to take stock of our current state and responsibly create our future together with local government and residents.”

Tofino mayor Josie Osborne told the Westerly News that, “Having accurate data about the value of this industry to the region’s economy is super informative and valuable for us as council and the district of Tofino to have,” and suggested the data could be a significant lobbying tool for infrastructure funding from the provincial and federal governments.

“Tofino really punches above its weight class when it comes to tourism in B.C. You can easily see that the amount of taxes we contribute back to senior levels of government, the amount of wages, the value of the economy as a whole and all the spending that is happening, especially if you look at a per capita basis, is far higher in Tofino than it is in almost every other community in B.C.,” she said.

“We are contributing a lot back to [the provincial and federal] governments through taxes and, in return, as a very small community, it’s a struggle to meet the infrastructure needs and demands for such high visitation and we can only be successful if we have really strong partnerships with senior levels of government.”

She cited the district’s proposed $55 million wastewater treatment plan as a local infrastructure project in need of funding support.

“It’s something we all know is the right thing to do but it’s a hard pill to swallow when you look at what it’s going to cost per capita…Because we’re supporting visitors, and we want to support visitors. I think we have a good case to make for extra help,” she said. “Local governments across Canada support well over half of the infrastructure load that Canadians depend on, yet we only collect 8-9 per cent of the tax revenue that all governments collect.”

READ MORE: Tofino pursues $40 million grant for sewage treatment

She added that important conversations are on the horizon around how much room Tofino has left for sustainable growth in tourism.

“Not only in a physical sense with our infrastructure, but also the environment and then people, community. We don’t want to compromise the community values that we have and we don’t want to compromise the environment that we depend on to attract visitors and have them be awed and wowed and inspired by everything that’s here,” she said. “We want the people who live here and operate businesses to be as successful as possible. So, I think, we all accept that there’s no desire for growth in the summertime, but that a little bit more in the shoulder season is something that, if done responsibly and done well, we can accommodate.”

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andrew.bailey@westerlynews.caLike us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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