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Lifted Canadian pandemic restrictions help pump tourist spending

Year-over-year tourist spending in Canada soared in the fourth quarter of 2022
Vancouver Aquarium, which closed during the pandemic and reopened in August 2021, found a bump in business as international tourists flocked back to B.C. in the fourth quarter of 2022

Spending by international travellers soared in the fourth quarter of 2022, after Canada lifted pandemic-era travel restrictions, according to Statistics Canada. 

The nation's number cruncher today unveiled data showing that international visitors to Canada spent about $3 billion in the fourth quarter of 2022, up about 87.5 per cent from the $1.6 billion that those visitors spent in the same quarter in 2021.

The fourth quarter of 2022 started on Oct. 1, when visitors stopped having to show proof of being vaccinated and no longer needed to use the country's ArriveCan app in order to enter the country. Passengers on planes and trains on that date no longer needed to wear masks, and cruise passengers on that date stopped having to provide pre-boarding tests that proved that they were negative for COVID-19.

Tourism sector executives had been calling for the government to remove those pandemic-era travel restrictions for many months in the lead-up to Oct. 1.

Americans dominated international-visitor spending in Canada in the fourth quarter of 2022, with about $1.7 billion, or 57 per cent of money spent in the three-month period. 

For both U.S. visitors and non-U.S. international visitors, spending was approximately double that seen during the fourth quarter of 2021, and slightly more than three-quarters of the spending seen in the same quarter in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic virtually halted travel.

While the fourth quarter of 2022 was the first one in years without any COVID-19 restrictions, there were some hurdles to travel. Severe winter storms in Vancouver and across the country disrupted air travel in December 2022.

Spending by U.S. residents was concentrated in four provinces: Ontario, B.C., Quebec and Alberta. Together, those provinces accounted for 88.9 per cent of total international-visitor spending, according to Statistics Canada.

Major expenses for U.S. travellers included accommodation ($611.8 million), food and beverages ($475.5 million) and transportation within Canada ($262.9 million). Together, these expenses accounted for 80.4 per cent of all U.S. visitor spending.

The $1.3 billion that international visitors spent in Canada in the fourth quarter of 2022 was up from about $752.7 million spent in the fourth quarter of 2021. Approximately 92.4 per cent of that spending was in Ontario, B.C., Quebec and Alberta, according to Statistics Canada.

Residents of Asia and Oceania spent approximately $621.5 million in Canada in that quarter while people who live in Europe spent $514.0 million, according to Statistics Canada. That spending amounted to about 84.7 per cent of total spending. 

About 37.3 per cent of the spending was on food and beverages, while accommodation ate up about 29.5 per cent of the spending. Transportation costs generated 12.4 per cent of the spending, according to Statistics Canada. 

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