Barkerville is enjoying great attendance over the last two years, despite financial challenges still gripping the tourism industry.
The national historic site is currently in week No. 15 of 20 weeks open to the public with its annual "living museum" program, with actors playing vintage characters, combined with educational activities, special events, and stores and theatres open for business.
"Comparing attendance through to Week 14 of last year to Week 14 of this year, we would be over 4,000 people up - an increase in the order of 10 per cent," said Judy Campbell, CEO of Barkerville Heritage Trust, the operators of the Barkerville site. "My guess, based on the way the dates fall this year, and barring anything we can't control like weather events, I think that we will finish up with a five to seven per cent increase over last year. But if certain things go in our favour, my wish would be to maintain that pace and we might end up holding at that nine to 10 per cent higher than the 2011 season."
While tourism across the region saw a 30 per cent decline in the 2011 season, Barkerville, saw its attendance figures dip only by nine per cent last year, while revenues dropped by only six per cent.
Part of the difference between the six and the nine was a small increase in ticket prices. The rest came from the commission the heritage trust makes on the sales of the merchants inside the town.
"Somehow, less people spent more money," Campbell said. "In a year of recession in general, the people who did travel possibly had more money for that. We have no way to officially substantiate that but we do know the licensee money was only down five per cent overall based on the gross revenues of our merchants."
She credits the merchants themselves of marketing themselves in new ways to interest more shopping from the Barkerville visitors.
"There are restrictions on the merchants. They can't just sell what they want," Campbell said. "We give them lots of guidelines, and they do a very good job of finding products that appeal to a 21st century audience but based in the spirit of the 1800s."
Campbell also wondered if the marketing of the site's special events was also having some success. Their mainstay - Dominion Day - brought in a n rear record 1,800 people this year. They also had strong attendance on the Victoria Day weekend, the appearance of Billy Barker's great-great-granddaughter at last weekend's Canadian National Gold Panning Championships was a hit, and they have other key events still to come before closing for the season on Sept. 30.