By Roy L Hales
Tourism has long been one of British Columbia’s main industries, employing more than twice the number of people as the combined figures for the entire natural resources sector. 1 A news release from the Ministry of Tourism reported that close to 5 million tourists came to BC in 2015.
5 Million Tourists Came To BC In 2015
There has been a significant increase in visitors from regions like:
- France up 32.8%
- Japan up 15.5%
- United States up 9.6%
- South Korea and Mexico up 9.5%
- India up 8.4%
- Asia/Pacific up 4.5%
- Europe up 3.8%
9 Million Overnight Visits To Vancouver
Though some of these visitors were undoubtedly drawn by the lower Canadian dollar, tourism revenues have increased over 40% since 2004. 3
Purhar credited a number of factors for the increase: “Tourism Vancouver’s sales and marketing initiatives in 11 countries; major events like FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015, and World Rugby Sevens and Americas Masters in 2016; and strong convention, cruise and festival seasons.”
“We do not have hard statistics that show Vancouver’s eco-initiatives directly correlate with an increase in tourism. But research undertaken in all of our core markets suggest that stewardship for our environment is increasingly important to potential visitors. That said, green aspects of the city are certainly attractive to visitors and spread awareness. A few examples: in December 2015, the city was recognized at the Paris COP21 climate talks with the C40 Cities Award for Greenest City Action Plan; in October 2015, we ranked fourth among a pool of 70 international cities evaluated on their green economies; and in June 2015, we were named Canada’s most walkable city,” she said.
Experiencing Supernatural BC
“Intuitively, and what we hear from some visitors is they love the fact B.C. is so vast. It is wide open and has amazing topography. They love the fact they can can have an urban experience, but if they so choose be into the wilds and experience the mountains, the forests, the oceans, the lakes, the rivers. There is multiple appeals for different audiences, but having said that we have a reputation for being this amazing playground, for people who love the outdoors,” said Walt Judas,4 CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of BC.
This is true of Metro Vancouver, beside the North shore Mountains, as well as remote communities.
“The further you venture away, whether it is North Island or the Caribou Chilcotin region, the Kootenays, or far north, that is what people experience in those regions. So it is becoming increasingly important, talking to colleagues around the province, and it is going to be more important in the future because those regions are all looking to expanding their ecotourism options and opportunities, ” said Judas.
There has been a marked increase in ecotourism, as well as more than 200 Aboriginal tourism businesses in the province.
According to a Bluepoint Strategy survey, commissioned by the Aboriginal Tourism Association of British Columbia, more than a third of visitors they questioned (36%) had visited a First Nations site or attended an event.
Steve Paccagnan, chairperson of the Canada West Ski Areas Association, said, “Snow sports … are the primary driver of winter tourism and have a huge impact on employment and our economy.”
Despite the poor weather last year, 19,300 Western Canadians were working in this sector and the industry had revenues of $821 million.
“When people come from a place like Germany, where it is a small country and very crowded, there is certainly a lot of beauty and countryside for them to enjoy. They might spend a couple of days in a city, like Vancouver or Victoria, but then they get in their motorhomes that they rented here , and love the fact they drive on a highway with no one around,” said Judas.
He added, “There are so many visitors, from so may different countries, that I don’t know if you can say there is a single draw. They are all coming for a different experience.”
Top Photo Credit: Guided bike tour rolls into Gastown with foreground framed with cyclists – Photo Credit: Tourism Vancouver/ Cycle City Tours
- According to Statistics Canada, B.C.’s Forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas sectors employed 52,000 in January 2016. A provincial government news release states “Tourism supports approximately 19,200 businesses and 127,500 employees in British Columbia.” ↩
- Destination BC said 9.4 million ↩
- There was a 38% increase in tourism revenues between 2004 and 2014; The annual statistics for 2015 show British Columbia saw a remarkable 7.9% increase in international visitors over the previous year. ↩
- Roy L Hales interview with Walt Judas CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of BC ↩