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Kimberley tourism sees better year than expected

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Despite the impacts that COVID-19 has been having on the tourism sector, Kimberley has seen a better year than expected, even with a drop in visitors through 2020.

John Hamilton, executive director of Tourism Kimberley said the organization was concerned in March when restrictions first started to be enacted. That worry started to ease when restrictions were eased in May.

“Kimberley did pretty well, I think because we’re a destination that has a lot of open spaces, it’s an outdoor destination. Our hotels actually did better in 2020 than they did in 2019 in July, August and September,” said Hamilton. “In the end, we did reasonably well, which is a difficult thing to say in this pandemic. We didn’t have a crash in our business because our community relies on tourism.”

Part of the reason Kimberley was able to keep its tourism afloat was due to visitors looking for individual activities to take part in.

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“People switched from team sports to individual sports. We’re a great golf destination, with seven golf courses within 24 minutes of each other. Hiking, mountain biking, are all individual pursuits. When people couldn’t play in team games, Kimberley became a very attractive destination,” said Hamilton.

Hamilton said the community has seen Albertans remain as the most common visitor this year.

“Before COVID, it was approximately 60% coming from Alberta, 20% coming from B.C., about 10% coming from the United State, and the rest coming from around Canada, with a smattering coming internationally” explained Hamilton. “Since COVID, it’s changed a little bit. The B.C. market has made up for more of the international market, but Alberta still remains the dominant visitor.”

Overall, the community has seen a dip in visitors throughout the year, but it has been able to sustain itself despite the restrictions.

“The COVID restrictions on accommodations, whereby you couldn’t sell 100% of your occupancy, you had to keep rooms open for 24 hours and other restrictions like that didn’t help us. Overall, I think we’re down about 20%, nobody was making any money, but so far, we’ve been able to survive,” said Hamilton.

Even though the year was not as bad as expected, Tourism Kimberley is still concerned over the upcoming ski season.

“We’re seeing a lot of cancellations over Christmas, as a result of Dr. Bonnie Henry’s announcements and what’s going on in Alberta. We’re praying that some of those restrictions will be lifted on December 7th, but I doubt it,” said Hamilton. “We were due to be absolutely full over Christmas and into January. It was shaping up to be a quite good ski season, but now we’re not so sure.”

To compensate for cancellations, Hamilton said he hopes locals will visit the slopes this winter.

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