Dismal summer leads to closures at Metro Vancouver tourist attractions
NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C. -- In the summertime, the Capilano Suspension Bridge is normally chock-a-block with tourists wobbling their way across the 140-metre span. For visitors this July and August, it was a different experience.
“It’s certainly been changed with COVID. It’s a one-way experience, but with so few guests in the park, it really is lovely,” said vice-president of sales and marketing Sue Kaffka.
But the dramatically smaller crowds-- about 75 per cent less than this time last year-- have been disastrous for the bottom line.
“The tragedy there for us is it’s the summer months that sustain us through the off season and the shoulder season,” said Kaffka. So the attraction that’s normally open every day except Christmas will be closing for the months of October and November, reopening Dec. 1 for its annual Canyon Lights holiday display.
The Vancouver Aquarium’s dismal summer attendance numbers have prompted it to close temporarily as well.
“We’re talking at the most 1,800 a day and we’d be expecting 5,000 or 6,000 people a day on days like this,” said COO Clint Wright. “We are just not getting the numbers of people in.”
The public’s last day was Labour Day, with no set reopening date.
“It’s really not possible to continue in the way we’re going,” said Wright. He expects it will be well into next year before the aquarium can look at opening to the public again.
Monday was the last day of work for more than 200 aquarium employees, some of whom have worked there for 30 plus years.
“Very sad day, day that I never thought would come,” said Wright. “We’re losing some very talented, very passionate people who care passionately about the oceans.“
Science World and the Vancouver Art Gallery are also struggling with very poor visitor numbers and may not be able to keep their doors open if things don’t turn around in the fall.
“It’s been very tough. Our attendance is down just over 70 per cent of where it was at last year,” said gallery CEO Anthony Kiendl.
“The Vancouver Art Gallery is the largest arts institution in the province, and we want to be part of recovery. So we’re going to wait and see a little longer, but certainly some difficult decisions will have to be made down the road if things don’t improve.”
“We are only receiving about 12 to 13 per cent of our pre-COVID visitor levels. And so therefore we will not have the revenue to stay open,” said Science World interim CEO Janet Wood.
While there are no immediate plans to close, without school groups that normally come in the fall, the future looks bleak.
“We do need funding and support from the government, no question,” said Wood.
All four attractions would like to see more local visitor support and government funding in order to survive the pandemic.
“We think the some sort of further government support, both provincial and federal, will make the difference to get us through this,” said Kiendl.