Tourism numbers for 2016 are up overall by 2.8 per cent from 2015, said Williams Lake and District Chamber of Commerce executive director Claudia Blair.
As of the end of September, 21,426 visitors have stopped in at the Tourism Discovery Centre and Blair anticipates another 2,000 will be tallied for the month of October.
She said staff at the visitors centre have seen changes in the demographics of where visitors are coming from because of immigration to Canada.
“One of the countries we are seeing people from now is Israel, whereas traditionally tourists come from Germany, Switzerland, and Australia, or Americans going to Alaska, especially between June and September.”
In September a group of eight Muslims arrived, “dressed most beautifully,” and stayed for a couple of hours looking at the all the displays and the gift shop, Blair said.
“We had a group from Moscow on motorcycles looking for information because they were camping and travelling the back roads,” she said. “They wanted to know about routes, camping and where to buy food and we had numerous groups in from China this year.”
Often operators taking tours to Alaska will come through in February and March to prepare for the season, she added.
Bus traffic has been down, however. In 2015 23 tour buses stopped in, whereas this year there have only been seven.
There are also people from the Lower Mainland who come in every year to pick up a Stampede poster.
An incident sticks out in her mind where a family from South Africa arrived at 4:55 p.m. interested in seeing local art.
“One of our counsellors told them about the Station House Gallery. When they seemed interested, she called up Diane Toop who said she would keep the gallery open,” Blair said. “Another time Arty the Artwalker was at the tourism centre and told a couple from Nevada about the Art Walk.”
Pets are welcome inside the discovery centre — but not inside the coffee shop — and many travelers will arrive saying they heard about that in a campground somewhere.
“We get dogs, cats and even a lizard one time,” Blair said. “We are even selling pet treats now.”
Williams Lake’s numbers reflect an 11.5 per cent increase in international visitors in the province announced by the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Responsible for Labour last week.
“Four million international visitors coming to this province this year means that British Columbia is increasingly becoming a top choice destination for travelers from around the world,” said Minister Shirley Bond.