The 2013 visitor traffic numbers indicate an increase of 56% in visitor boat nights, with direct spending estimated at $367,000 and total impact on the community estimated at $660,000.
In recent years, Ladysmith and the surrounding area has suffered from industrial-plant closures resulting in a loss of jobs and economic activity. The region has been looking to marine tourism opportunities as a key piece of its economic diversification strategy. Marine tourism is an important economic driver for southern Vancouver Island. There is strong potential for significant community benefit, however a lack of essential infrastructure within this network has been an impediment to its growth. The foundation of a healthy marine tourism sector requires a network of marinas that provide visitors with variety and with the moorage and amenities they require. Ladysmith is the northern gateway to the Gulf Islands and is ideally situated to be an important part of this network.
The Ladysmith Community Marina Visitor Facilities Project initiated a project to increase its marina space and build a floating Visitor Centre with a view to attracting the lucrative boater “rendez-vous” market. The new visitor facilities include the Visitor Reception and Information Centre: a 3,000 square foot building housed with the amenities needed by boaters, such as visitor information, showers, laundry and Wi-Fi access. However, the key elements of the Centre are the hospitality and special events area, which provide a welcoming and well equipped stop for the groups of boaters travelling along the coast. The project also included new floats, electrical upgrades and accessibility improvements to accommodate users of all ages and abilities.
Since project completion, in 2012, growth in the number of boater ‘rendez-vous’ has been steady and the project has been welcomed as a stimulus for economic activity in town. The increase in larger scale marine tourism also yields benefits to other facilities and communities in the broader region, as these boaters will usually continue on after a rendez-vous to visit other areas. The new facilities have been featured in several boating publications and websites providing the community and region with an increased national and international profile. The 2013 visitor traffic numbers indicate an increase of 56% in visitor boat nights, with direct spending estimated at $367,000 and total impact on the community estimated at $660,000.