Ferry traffic down as tourists go south

Tourists are lining up at U.S. border crossings instead of heading to B.C.'s favourite coastal getaways, and summer traffic on BC Ferries is down about four per cent as a result.

BC Ferries passengers enjoy view of Mount Baker and a glimpse of a pod of orcas in on their way to Vancouver Island.

Tourists are lining up at U.S. border crossings instead of heading to B.C.’s favourite coastal getaways, and summer traffic on BC Ferries is down about four per cent as a result.

BC Ferries is running its full summer schedule of sailings and CEO David Hahn estimates the lighter traffic means the corporation will probably take a loss of about $20 million on the year. But Hahn rejects the suggestion that rising ferry fares are keeping people away, because Statistics Canada figures show U.S. visits have slumped across Canada while traffic south has soared.

“The strength of the Canadian dollar, the price of fuel, has driven Canadians across the board, not just in B.C., down into the United States … it’s a reverse of what happened in 2003 and 2004,” Hahn told CKNW radio Thursday. “I guarantee the people with the big motorhomes in Alberta are thinking twice about coming west. They’re going south because they can buy a lot more fuel for a lot less money down in the States.”

In 2001, a vehicle with two passengers cost about $50 to travel from the B.C. mainland to Vancouver Island. That’s up to about $75 today, with proportionally larger increases on smaller routes. Hahn said BC Ferries’ fuel costs have tripled to $120 million a year since was appointed CEO in 2003.

Foot traffic on the ferries is up as travellers occasionally find sailing waits for walk-on passengers.

Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom put a cap on ferry fare increases this spring, one of several moves billed as part of Premier Christy Clark’s “families first” agenda. Fare increases of up to eight per cent on northern and smaller routes were capped at 4.15 per cent while the B.C. Ferry Commissioner reviews rates and makes recommendations to the government by early 2012.

Hahn noted that vehicle travel to the U.S. is up across Canada, and airport figures are showing the same trend. Passengers to Vancouver airport peaked in 2008 with more than 17 million passengers, but have not recovered completely from the U.S.-led economic crisis, even in the Olympic year of 2010.

Arrivals are also down since 2008 at Victoria, Comox and Prince Rupert airports.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Sts’Ailes students scale glaciers as part of mountain skills and wilderness program

‘It’s not just about taking kids hiking, it’s actually about connecting them to the land’

Fraser Cascade superintendent announces retirement

Dr. Karen Nelson has worked for School District 78 for 29 years

Not over yet: Mixture of snow, freezing rain on way as winter storm tapers in Lower Mainland

Environment Canada releases weather alert for Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley

FVRD seeking outdoor rec feedback

Open house meetings slated for next week

LETTER: Agassiz once a sleepy village at the end of the road

In his letter, Richard Probert shares his memories of Agassiz as it was in the ’50s and ’60s

Kids across Canada more at risk of hospitalization from flu this season: doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam said influenza B does not usually peak until February or later

B.C. offers $5 million equipment loan program to help ailing forest contractors

Local politicians in Port McNeill and Campbell River says local economies are struggling

Vancouver Island distillery wins award for best Canadian rye whisky

Shelter Point cleans up at Canadian Whisky Awards

Kelowna hotel to award couples for baby-making with Nooner deal

The deal includes a free stay every Valentine’s Day for the next 18 years

Dad of missing Abbotsford woman charged after allegedly exposing himself in park

Barry Shpeley charged with sexual assault and assault

Crown won’t appeal sentence in child sex assault case of former Burns Lake mayor

B.C. Prosecution Service said sentence doesn’t meet standard for appeal

VIDEO: Semi driver records 22 crashes in one icy trip from Chilliwack to Abbotsford

‘Treacherous’ morning had emergency crews struggling to reach stranded drivers

‘Scariest boat ride of my life’: Passengers trapped by ice on rocky B.C. ferry sailing

The Nimpkish docked in Bella Coola on Jan.12 coated in a thick layer of ice

B.C. pair ordered to pay $55,000 for oil tank discovered four years after selling home

Judge says defendants breached contract, despite being unaware of tank until basement flooded

Most Read