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B.C. finally attracts more foreign visitors than it did pre-pandemic

Foreign visitor count to Canada through B.C. was up 26.2 per cent in October
Entrants to Canada go through customs at Vancouver International Airport | Rob Kruyt

The number of international visitors to Canada through B.C. entry ports has finally exceeded a pre-pandemic monthly count. 

B.C. welcomed 498,586 international visitors in October, up 7,766, or nearly 1.6 per cent, from the 490,820 international visitors in October 2019.

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.

Canada then started welcoming foreign visitors in increments, starting with fully vaccinated Americans in 2021. Measures such as requiring negative COVID-19 tests, and using the clunky-for-some ArriveCan app continued. 

It was not until Oct. 1, 2022 that Canada ended all COVID-19-era precautions for international travellers. Visitors could finally visit without needing to quarantine, or wear masks, or even be vaccinated.

That makes the data Statistics Canada released today for international visits in October 2023 notable. It is the first month for which there is a year-over-year comparison with a month that had the same level of COVID-19 restrictions – none. 

The result is a substantial 26.16-per-cent, year-over-year uptick in foreign visitors to B.C. in October. In October 2022, only 395,196 international visitors arrived in Canada through B.C. entry points.

While 26.16 per cent sounds like a huge year-over-year growth rate, it is not when compared with year-over-year growth rates in recent months. 

In September, B.C. welcomed 38.38 per cent more international visitors through its entry points than it did in September 2022.

Year-over-year growth rates for international visitors entering Canada through B.C. are:
• 37.52 per cent in August;
• 40.23 per cent in July; and 
• 55.2 per cent in June. 

Those high rates underscore the trend for how much international visitors have been steadily returning to B.C. 

Chinese visitors to B.C. in October 2019 were the second most numerous, after Americans, according to Destination British Columbia.

Chinese visitors now are far less numerous despite rapid growth in their return rate.

Statistics Canada does not break down the number of Chinese visitors to Canada through B.C. entry points. Destination British Columbia is expected to do that with the Statistics Canada data, and then release that number in January. 

Statistics Canada did today reveal its count for how many Chinese visitors came to Canada through all entry points in October: 29,000 – good for fourth place, after the U.K., France and Mexico.

In October 2022, China ranked No. 7 for the number of visitors to Canada.

The year-over-year growth rate in the number of Chinese visitors to Canada in October was a staggering 188.4 per cent.

Visits to Canada by nationals of other Asian countries is also more than doubling. There were 167.6 more Japanese visitors to Canada in October than in October 2022 despite the Japanese yen falling considerably compared with the Canadian dollar. 

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