Data supports anecdotal reports that B.C.'s tourism sector is strongly on the rebound from dire times during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The good news for the sector is that the rise in visitors that many businesses are seeing are not just domestic travellers.
Statistics Canada data for February shows that the number of foreign visitors to Canada in February who arrived via B.C. ports was up 147.5 per cent, compared with the same month in 2022 – to 364,096 from 147,090.
Americans were largely responsible for the uptick, as 287,221 Americans visited Canada through B.C. in February, up 145.9 per cent from 116,809 in the same month one year ago.
The jump in international visitors from outside the U.S. to Canada through B.C. was even higher: 153.9 per cent, to 76,875 from 30,281 in February 2021.
The rise in non-U.S. international visitors is particularly important because Destination BC data shows that non-U.S. international visitors spend more per person on trips to B.C. than do Americans or domestic tourists.
Mainland Chinese visitors were the highest-spending international visitors pre-pandemic, laying out an estimated $2,021 per person per trip, according to the province’s tourism marketer. Aussies were second at about $1,814, said Destination BC spokeswoman Kristen Learned told BIV last year.
The biggest cause for the recent spike in visitors is likely that the Canadian goverenment on October 1, 2022, removed its ban on unvaccinated people entering the country, and its requirement that visitors use its ArriveCan app.
Passengers on planes and trains as of that date were also no longer required to wear masks. The federal government on that date also stopped requiring cruise passengers to provide pre-boarding tests to prove that they were negative for COVID-19.
Australasians and Asians lead the jump in visits to B.C.
Destination BC does not yet have a full breakdown of visitor entries to Canada via B.C. by country on its website, and Statistics Canada's most recent data groups entrants by larger continental areas.
The region that saw the largest year-over-year jump in providing visitors to B.C. was Australasia, which was the source for 12,659 people – up 269.3 per cent from 3,428 people in February 2022.
The biggest source of non-U.S. international travellers to B.C. was Asia, with that region also having a soaring increase in trips. There were 30,045 Asians who entered Canada via B.C. in February, up 241.3 per cent from the 8,802 Asians who did this in February 2022, according to Statistics Canada.
That compares with 17,772 Europeans entering Canada via B.C. in February, up 59.3 per cent from the 11,158 visitors in February 2022.
Comparatively few Africans visited Canada via B.C. in February – 487, up about 103 per cent from 240 Africans making those trips in February 2022.
There were 13,589 non-U.S. North Americans who entered Canada via B.C. in February, up 135.6 per cent from February 2022.
Another 2,069 people from Central America, South America and the Caribbean entered Canada via B.C. in February, up 1.41.4 per cent from 857 people in the same month a year ago.
Destination BC has created an infographic that shows that the number of international visitors to Canada via B.C. in February was about 85 per cent of the number in February 2019.
BIV earlier this week reported that Vancouver International Airport's passenger volume expected this week is about 82 per cent of what it was in the same week in 2019.