Recent History – 1998
By Mark Nielsen, Daily News Staff, Dec. 31, 1998
It was a good year for tourism and Dawson Creek InfoCentre manager Marilyn Croutch has reason to believe that 1999 will be a good one as well. According to recently-compiled statistics, some 39,456 people filed through the info-centre during the course of 1998, and that’s just those who were counted.
“We know we missed [people] in the high parts of summer — 50 to 75 people a day we estimate,” Croutch said. “It’s just impossible to keep up.”
She estimated that at least 2,000 more people visited the info-centre compared to last year, most looking for travel information while a fair number toured the museum and bought souvenirs.
Croutch attributes the rise mainly to the growing number of aging Americans who are finally acting on their dream of visiting Alaska by driving up the Alaska Highway. As well, word is getting out that the Alaska Highway is not as bad as it once was. “It’s not a horror story out there,” she said. “It is a pretty good piece of road.”
While the low Canadian dollar helped, Croutch said the impact may not have been as great as many might have thought. “I don’t think it’s nearly as big a factor with those coming into our country as those potential Canadians leaving. Canadians tended to be inside Canada more,” she said, noting that more Canadians seemed to be traveling to the Yukon and the North West Territories.
Some 15,521 parties passed through the info-centre. Of that total, 3,034 were from the states and provinces that border British Columbia, while another 9,190 were from elsewhere in North America.
Croutch estimates that the percentage of that number who are American is in the high 70s.
The main purpose of the trip for 11,618 of those parties was sightseeing, and 11,135 were heading for destinations outside B.C., most of them going to Alaska.
Some 5,603 were passing through Dawson Creek while another 5,955 stayed 1-3 nights.
Croutch is optimistic that 1999 will also be a good year, especially since the American boycott of Prince Rupert may be tailing off. Many Americans stayed away from Prince Rupert this summer after Canadian fishers angry with the U.S. stand on salmon fishing, prevented an American cruise ship from leaving Prince Rupert for a number of days in 1996.