Victoria business groups eye long-term benefits of rebuilding museum

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After more than two dark years, tourism operators are finally experiencing a new business boom.

“Hotels are full, revenues are up, a lot of restaurants can’t be booked on any day of the week,” said Jeff Bray, president of the Downtown Victoria Business Association.

But now another potential shadow looms. The Royal BC Museum is closed for eight years while a new facility is built in the same location at a cost of three-quarters of a billion dollars. The loss of such an important attraction will undoubtedly result in the loss of some visitors to the capital of British Columbia.

READ MORE: British Columbia to spend $789 million to replace Royal BC Museum

“One of the biggest groups of people who come to the museum are school children who bus in from all over the province,” said Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Williams.

“Certainly the cafes, restaurants in and around the museum will likely see a short-term impact,” Bray said.

But those in the industry say that despite the short-term pain, the announcement is actually a long-term win for downtown Victoria.

“Frankly, the provincial government could have located the provincial museum anywhere in the province, so the fact that they chose to keep this downtown location is very favorable to us and we are very happy about that,” said Bray.

And they say there are plenty of other attractions in the city center to keep tourists busy over the next few years.

“You can come downtown and go to the Bateman Gallery, you can go to the Bug Zoo, you can go to the Maritime Museum, all of those things are still there,” Williams said.

British Columbia’s Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport says taking the museum’s exhibits on tour over the next eight years will help attract visitors to other communities in the province.

“We know that when we bring these exhibits to the community, people will go and visit them, for example, the mammoth is suggested to be at YVR, the woolly mammoth is in high demand, the killer whales are going to be at the cruise ship terminal, we’ We have exhibits at the mall so they’re accessible to British Columbians,” said Minister Melanie Mark.

And in its absence, the DVBA says things are still looking up for local operators, as the return of office workers, conferences and international tourism keeps tourism afloat.

“Their challenge now is finding staff, not finding customers,” Bray said.

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