Vancouver’s tourism industry was stronger than ever this summer due to a 27 per cent spike in visitors from China and the city’s status as a “Chinese-friendly” destination, according to a local business association. Ty Speer, president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver, said global economic conditions and Vancouver’s reputation as a “beautiful place that is safe and welcoming” make it a strong tourism market overall, but an influx of visitors from China meant an economic boon this past summer for restaurants, hotels and attractions in the city.
“We’re getting great tourism numbers in from China,” Speer said. “China’s an enormous travel market, outbound, and obviously it’s on the front edge of where travel will get to from China in coming years. What’s really encouraging, I think, from a Vancouver point-of-view, is that we’re seeing a disproportionately positive share of that growth.”
Data on Tourism Vancouver’s website show Greater Vancouver hosted close to 25,000 overnight visitors from China this past June, a 27 per cent increase over about 19,000 in 2013. Destination B.C.’s website shows the province hosted close to 42,000 overnight customs entries from China this past July, a 29 per cent increase over about 33,000 in 2013. Speer credited good policy and investment decisions for encouraging people to do business in Vancouver, such as the construction of the Vancouver Convention Centre leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, but noted that Chinese visitor growth is primarily leisure travel.
“It doesn’t happen by accident. There’s been a lot of in-market activity within China to encourage people to come to Vancouver and there’s been a lot of work that has been done in Vancouver, in essence, to make Vancouver a very Chinese-friendly city to visit.”
Speer said Vancouver businesses have worked hard to ensure visitors from China have an easy, positive experience while visiting the city. Overall, B.C. received more than 720,000 overnight customs entries from outside Canada this past July, up 3.4 per cent over the 696,000 that came in 2013. Sue Kaffka, vice-president of sales and marketing at the Capilano Suspension Bridge, said the tourist attraction had a “very, very strong summer” that saw its numbers increase over 2013.
An emailed statement from the Vancouver Aquarium said the attraction has seen an increase of visitors since 2008. Attendance exceeded one million people for the first time in 2012 and again in 2013, and the aquarium expects to reach a million once more if numbers remain on their current track this year. Speer said he expects continued growth for Vancouver’s tourism industry in coming years.
“I think we remain really confident about 2015,” he said. “Everybody needs to pull together to keep the trend moving, but we feel good about the trend that has really been moving in the right direction since 2009, 2010.”