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Kootenay tourism showed only modest rebound in 2021

Tourism in the Kootenays was up a bit last year compared to the year before, but still remained at barely half of pre-pandemic levels, judging by the number of people who stopped by local visitor information centres.

That was one of the findings of Selkirk Innovates in its State of the Basin report.

In 2019, 357,963 people were counted at visitor centres in the Kootenay Rockies tourism region.

“What we found, which is no surprise, is visitors to visitor centres dropped dramatically between 2019 and 2020 due to pandemic restrictions and travel restrictions,” researcher Jayme Jones says.

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In 2020, 177,257 people entered local visitor centres. In 2021, that number was up about four per cent to 184,493.

New provincial funding was announced in May 2021 to help the tourism sector recover, to be invested in things that enhance tourism amenities and experiences such as electric vehicle and camping infrastructure. An additional $2.3 million was announced last week for the same purpose.

However, Jones says expects it will take a while to see the results of those investments.

“Tourism will slowly rebound post-pandemic,” she predicted, adding that while visitor centre data is  helpful in monitoring tourist activity, it doesn’t necessarily capture every visitor to a region.

“It give a proxy for us to monitor change over time. What it tells us is that we’re slowly starting to go back up but we’re not quite there yet.”

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