PNE patron numbers fall short of expectations
Lower than expected attendance at this year’s Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver is being blamed on the poor economy and the higher Canadian dollar.
According to officials, as many as 60,000 fewer patrons passed through the gates than anticipated, continuing a downward trend over recent years.
In the 2010 centennial year more than 930,000 people came to the fair. That number dropped to just over 800,000 people in 2011. This summer they’re forecasting the final tally as being under 800,000 people.
PNE spokesperson Laura Balance pointed to low tourism in the province as one explanation.
“I think overall tourist statistics are showing that tourism into British Columbia is soft right now,” she said.
Fewer Americans crossing the border because of the high Canadian dollar is an issue as tourists represent a quarter of the fair’s business.
John Chapman, who has been serving up food at the PNE for half a century, thinks people are prioritizing with smaller budgets.
“It's just the economy right know. Everybody's scared; they're trying to save their money to buy a house,” he said.
Officials also claim great weather deterred patrons as families chose to do other things under the sunshine.
“We had kind of a slow start to our summer, so maybe everyone crammed in their camping at the end because the weather has turned,” patron Danielle Dube said.
But Balance is still optimistic about the fair’s future.
“We’re 102 years old, we’re used to weathering trends and we will respond to it for next year’s event,” she said.
Over the next few weeks, officials will begin discussing what worked, what didn’t and how they will boost patron numbers for 2013. Changes in entertainment, food and prices will be considered.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Scott Roberts