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Busier streets and booked hotels: City report shows Victoria is continuing to recover from the pandemic

Mayor Lisa Helps says the steady upward trend in people returning to downtown shows that city initiatives are working

By Jolene Rudisuela
October 6, 2022
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Busier streets and booked hotels: City report shows Victoria is continuing to recover from the pandemic

Mayor Lisa Helps says the steady upward trend in people returning to downtown shows that city initiatives are working

Photo: Jolene Rudisuela / Capital Daily
Photo: Jolene Rudisuela / Capital Daily
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Busier streets and booked hotels: City report shows Victoria is continuing to recover from the pandemic

Mayor Lisa Helps says the steady upward trend in people returning to downtown shows that city initiatives are working

By Jolene Rudisuela
October 6, 2022
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Busier streets and booked hotels: City report shows Victoria is continuing to recover from the pandemic
Photo: Jolene Rudisuela / Capital Daily

Victoria is well on the road to recovery following the pandemic with a big increase in downtown pedestrian numbers and community events, the latest Building Back Victoria report shows. 

Downtown as a whole saw a 38% increase in pedestrians between April and June of this year, compared to the same time last year. Hotel occupancy nearly doubled, getting back to levels not seen since spring 2019, and more people drove their vehicles to the downtown core, leading to a 23% jump in on-street parking transactions.

“It’s good to see the upward trajectory of people coming back into the downtown after a couple of years of pandemic,” Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps told Capital Daily. “[Over the past year] we’ve seen a steady upward trend, which is exactly what we want to see… And I think, most importantly, it’s a really good signal that Victorians and visitors care passionately about our local businesses and want to support them.”

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Helps says one of the biggest things the city has done to draw people back downtown throughout the pandemic has been adding patios in the downtown core. The bylaw allowing businesses to build temporary patios in public spaces was introduced at the start of the pandemic and recently extended until the end of March 2023. 

“I think that really helped businesses in the crux of the pandemic, but also we’re seeing those patios still full… into October,” she said. 

Pedestrianizing Government Street has also drawn people to the downtown core, Helps said. The report noted that this street in particular saw a 91% increase in pedestrian traffic in the second quarter of 2022, compared to the same time last year. 

The return of cruise ship passengers this spring—following the end of Canada’s 19-month ban on cruise ship visits—helped boost foot traffic on the downtown thoroughfare, according to Helps.

“It was a bit of an experiment and it is going to stay in that location because we’ve now approved a plan that is going to see Government Street absolutely transformed over the next five years to be an even better people place,” she said. 

While Helps is not running for re-election, she hopes council will continue to invest in public spaces downtown, like transforming Douglas Street and Centennial Square to help make the city centre a more vibrant place. She also emphasized that tracking data on Victoria’s economic recovery is crucial to make sure the city is headed in the right direction. 

The Building Back Victoria report also shows the city issued a huge increase in event permits from April to June of this year—an 875% increase from the same time last year. 

While the number of cyclists decreased by 9% in the second quarter of the year compared to the same time in 2021, Helps says there will likely be a jump in the third quarter as a result of the Bike Valet installed by the city at Centennial Square. The Times Colonist reported that 8,000 bikes have so far been parked at the service since the pilot project launched on June 24. 

The number of building permit applications also dropped slightly, but so far the total value of permits this year has hit $186.2 million, compared to last year’s total of $146.9 million. 

The city issued only four film permits between April and June this year—a 90% drop from the same time last year when 38 film permits were given out, as the industry rushed to catch up after pandemic-induced delays 

Victoria ranked second best small city in the world

As traffic in downtown Victoria increases, it’s clear that the city is still a very desirable travel destination.

The Capital city claimed the #2 spot in this year’s Condé Nast Traveler’s annual Readers’ Choice Awards for small cities, ahead of destinations like San Sebastián, Spain; Cambridge, United Kingdom; and Salzburg, Austria. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, ranked first. 

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