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International visits to B.C. dip below pre-pandemic level in November

Visits from Mexicans continue to surge
A British Airways flight lands at Vancouver International Airport | Chung Chow

The success B.C. saw in October of finally luring more foreign visitors in a calendar month, compared with the same month pre-pandemic, was short lived, according to data Statistics Canada released today.

Canada in November attracted 383,850 foreign visitors who entered through B.C. entry points. That is down more than 9.8 per cent from the 425,693 such visitors in the same month in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic descended, causing a virtual shut-down in international travel. 

Governments around the world in March 2020 urged residents to avoid international travel and then virtually sealed borders to limit COVID-19 from spreading. Canada closed its border to most foreign nationals on March 18, 2020.

Some good news is that on a year-over-year basis, travel to Canada through B.C. is up 21 per cent, from the 317,278 international visitors who arrived in November 2022, according to the nation's number cruncher.

While that sounds substantial, the year-over-year percentage growth for foreign visitors to Canada through B.C. has been on the decline. It was: 
• 26.16 per cent in October;
• 38.18 per cent in September; 
• 37.52 per cent in August;
• 40.23 per cent in July; and 
• 55.2 per cent in June. 

The surge in Mexicans visiting Canada through B.C. entry points appears to be continuing. 

Statistics Canada's data package today does not strip out Mexicans but it instead includes a number for how many North Americans who are not Americans or Canadian residents entered Canada through B.C. entry points in November - a data point that would also include Cubans and perhaps others.

Destination British Columbia is set to have a fuller country-by-country breakdown of the data in a few weeks.

Statistics Canada said 10,395 North Americans from outside Canada and the U.S. entered Canada through B.C. entry points in November, up a whopping 33.9 per cent from the 7,764 such people who did that in November 2019. 

Almost every other visitor category showed a decline in visits, compared with pre-pandemic.

Only 14,790 Europeans entered Canada through B.C. entry points in November, down 7.7 per cent from the 16,027 such people who did that in the same month in 2019. Asian visits to Canada through B.C. in November were down by even more: 18.4 per cent, to 38,719, compared with 47,449 in November 2019. 

The Vancouver Airport Authority's manager of air service development, Nathaniel Wong, told BIV on Jan. 19 that the total capacity on airlines at Vancouver International Airport is up by about one per cent, compared with pre-pandemic.

Flights within North America and Latin America exceed 2019 capacity levels whereas capacity on flights to Europe lags behind, at about two-per-cent below pre-pandemic capacity, he said.

Capacity on flights in the Asia-Pacific region has been hardest hit, as it is only at about 77 per cent of its pre-pandemic level, Wong said. 

"China bi-laterals continue to be the limiting factor for this [regional] sector, but there are key markets that are at pre-pandemic levels," he said.

"Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea are already at or close to pre-pandemic levels. Hong Kong has been recovering well also."

New airlines coming, given that Japanese airline Zip Air starts non-stop flights between YVR and Tokyo's Narita International Airport (NRT) in March.

Airlines are also increasing capacity.

United Airlines has added capacity between YVR and its key U.S. hubs.

Air Canada, similarly, has loaded more capacity on routes between YVR and airports such as NRT, Hong Kong International Airport and Seoul's Incheon International Airport.

American Airlines launches non-stop flights between YVR and North Carolina's Charlotte Douglas International Airport this summer.

Westjet is adding non-stop flights between YVR and Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, starting April 28.

"Air Canada also launches direct to Singapore in early April, and it started direct to Dubai this past October," Wong said.

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