TSP “cautiously optimistic” on return of international tourists

Photo from Air Canada.

While tourist numbers are nowhere near pre-pandemic levels, a portion of international skiers from some of Sun Peaks’ largest foreign markets are likely to return to the slopes this winter.

Colin Brost, Tourism Sun Peaks’ (TSP) senior director of market development, said he’s “cautiously optimistic” the resort and village businesses will see some international visitors come back this ski season. 

Brost said his hesitation stems from uncertainty around policy changes regarding border closures and travel rules, which have plagued the tourism industry over the course of the entire pandemic.

“We need to be conscious that everything can change in a heartbeat, and we’re not out of the woods yet,” he said.

“We’re hopeful that things will continue on the momentum that they’re going, but we need to be aware and be prepared for any changes with our source markets’ borders and restrictions as well as within the Canadian border.”

So far, pre-bookings are coming in for “mature couples” from the United Kingdom (UK), primarily due to their increased confidence, Brost added.

The New Zealand and Australian markets, which typically make up nearly 50 per cent of Sun Peaks’ overseas winter guests, are currently impacted by their own domestic travel rules and vaccination rollouts.

Brost said while there is positive news regarding those countries’ vaccination rollouts, New Zelanders will likely not be returning this winter, and Australian families in any numbers may not be returning until near the end of the winter, if at all.

The German market was cautious about booking prior to the Sept. 7 Canadian border opening, worrying that it could have been delayed. 

Even though it did open as planned to vaccinated travellers, the floodgates of international bookings have not followed.

“There was a slight concern that [the German market operators] thought it might get delayed but now that the border is open, that really helped build confidence,” Brost explained. 

“Now, it’s sort of the operators connecting with their clients to let them know what the rules are and what’s permissible, and what they have to do in order to travel at this point.”

Generally though, Brost said research indicates international travellers who do make their way to Canada this winter will be spending more money and staying for longer.

“That’s a positive, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the higher spending and longer stay would be in Sun Peaks. It could be that, let’s say, a UK couple wants to come to ski in Canada, [they might] add on an extra week to stay in Vancouver where in another year maybe they just come and do 10 days of skiing.”

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