Attendance at Barkerville was up this year, but there is still a ways to go to get back to pre-COVID numbers.
James Douglas is the Manager of Visitor Experiences and Public Relations.
“We wound up just shy of 31,000 people this year, which was 11,000 more than last year. And although it’s nowhere close to where we want to be, we’d like to get back up to 60, 65,000 per season. Given that it was a shortened season, and given that people are sort of tentatively travelling, we do feel as though it was a tremendous success.”
Douglas says they normally open before the May long weekend and close on the last Sunday in September, but this year they opened on June 4th and closed on September 11th.
He says a longer season next year, and the return of the school program should help.
“Absolutely, if we can see the return of the school program it will help significantly. Traditionally, we see 4, 4 1/2 thousand students come through Barkerville in May and early June. Next year everything looks like it will be fine.”
Douglas says this year they did virtual presentations, so instead of the students coming to Barkerville, Barkerville sort of went to them.
He says they expect significant growth next year.
“Normally, if it were any sort of regular season, you would look at a 2, 2 1/2 percent growth as being something really good each year. But this year we saw a 33 percent growth over last year, so I would be willing to think that we would probably get those numbers up to maybe another 40 percent jump for next year.”
Getting back to this year, Douglas says the return of the Theatre Royal was an unprecedented success.
“We saw a huge jump in theatre attendance, so even though our overall visitation wasn’t as strong as we would want it to be, the percentage of the people who came to the park who then went to the Theatre Royal increased dramatically this year.”
Douglas says they did something a little different this year.
“Normally the Theatre Royal has been produced and presented by a third party company that has licensed the theatre from us, and that’s traditionally how it’s been now for decades. But this year we decided that this would be the first time that we actually use the professional actors that we employ every day on the streets of Barkerville, so Miss Wilson who gives you the town tour, Mr. Hankin who does some of the waterwheel things and is one of the blacksmiths.”
Douglas says it created an even more authentic experience for visitors.
This year’s show was called “The Valley with Gold.”