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Foreign visits to B.C. stay below pre-pandemic level in December

Year-over-year growth in international visitors to B.C. remains strong, although Asian visits remain far below 2019 levels
Air Canada is the largest carrier at Vancouver International Airport

Despite significant year-over-year gains, B.C. continues to attract fewer foreign visitors to the province than it did before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Data today from Statistics Canada show that there were 545,652 visits from foreign visitors entering Canada through B.C. entry points in December.  That is up 25.1 per cent, compared with 435,970 such visits in December 2022, but down nearly 5.5 per cent from the 577,206 such visitors in December 2019. 

December was the second consecutive month that fewer foreign visitors arrived in Canada through B.C., compared with the same month pre-pandemic. 

In October, the number of international visitors to Canada through B.C. entry points finally exceeded a pre-pandemic monthly count, but that success was short lived. In November, the number of those travellers to Canada through B.C. was once again below the level seen in the equivalent month pre-pandemic

Some good news is that on a year-over-year basis, travel to Canada through B.C. has been trending upward. 

The 25.1-per-cent increase in those visits in December, compared to December 2022 is substantial, and it bucks a trend in recent months of the year-over-year jump for those visits being steadily less steep with each passing month.

The year-over-year percentage growth for foreign visitors to Canada through B.C. was: 
• 20.98 per cent in November;
• 26.16 per cent in October; and
• 38.18 per cent in September.

Visits from Americans always dominate within the number of international arrivals to Canada through B.C. ports. There were 415,279 American visits to Canada though B.C. in December, which was about 76.1 per cent of all such international visits in that month. 

American visits to Canada through B.C. in December were up 26.5 per cent from the 326,268 Americans who did that in December 2022. 

The region where the number of visits to Canada through B.C. has been lagging the most, compared with pre-pandemic times, is Asia. 

That continues.

There were about 31 per cent fewer Asian nationals who visited Canada through B.C. in December (49,771), compared with December 2019 (72,143). Fewer non-stop flights between Vancouver and Asia is largely responsible. There are also fewer airlines flying non-stop routes to Asia from Vancouver.

Year-over-year growth in the number of Asian visitors to Canada through B.C. in December rose in line with the jump in overall international visits, at 25.1 per cent, compared with December 2022 (39,763.)

Destination British Columbia is set to release a more detailed breakdown of the international visits to B.C., on a country-by-country basis, in the weeks ahead.

One trend that has been strong is more visits from Mexican nationals than pre-pandemic. Spurring those visits could be increased airline capacity on non-stop routes to Mexico, and lower fares in many cases than were provided pre-pandemic. The Mexican peso is also stronger today against the Canadian dollar than it was in December 2019.

Statistics Canada today did not segment out the number of Mexicans who visited Canada through B.C. in December.

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