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Post-pandemic return of international visitors to B.C. stalls in June

B.C.'s number of foreign overnight visitors in June was down 28.6 per cent, compared with 2019
A Flair Airlines plane waits on the tarmac at Vancouver International Airport

B.C. welcomed 595,795 foreign overnight visitors in June, according to new Destination British Columbia number crunching of Statistics Canada data.

That is down 28.5 per cent from the same month in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic virtually ground international travel to a halt.

That decline in relation to months in 2019 has been holding steady. 

In May, the province's 439,677 foreign overnight visitor count was down 28.6 per cent from the same month in 2019. May's total was up 54.1 per cent from May 2022, while in June, the increase over last June was a comparatively low 48.8 per cent. 

Normalized travel by Mexicans was one reason for the softer June visitor data. 

Mexico was the only country to provide more visitors to B.C. in April and in May than in those same months in 2019, based on Destination BC figures. The country sent 17,288 overnight visitors to B.C. in May – a staggering 34 per cent more visitors to B.C., compared with May 2019. 

The 17,000 Mexican overnight visitors that B.C. saw in June, however, was down by 0.5 per cent, compared with the same month in 2019, Destination BC data show.

No country sent more overnight visitors to B.C. in June than it did in June 2019, although India came close, with 23,429 visitors, a count that was down by only 0.1 per cent, compared with 2019. 

China remains the nation that has a visitor count to B.C. that most lags 2019. There were 12,222 mainland Chinese visitors to B.C. in June, down 66.4 per cent from the same month in 2019. China earlier ths month left Canada off a list of countries approved for group tours, indicating that it may be a slow road to full recovery in overnight visitors from that country.

The Chinese government at the time cited anti-Asian hate in Canada, as well as that Canada has criticized alleged interference by China in Canadian elections.

The silver lining is that the 12,222 mainland Chinese visitors to Canada via B.C. ports in June was 241.7 per cent more than in June 2022 – the biggest percentage gain, compared with last year, among all nations.

The number of weekly non-stop flights between Vancouver and mainland China remains far below what it was pre-pandemic.

Chinese and Canadian representatives are discussing how to increase the number of non-stop flights between the two countries but whether concrete action will result is anyone's guess.

The U.S. remains the nation that sends the most overnight visitors to B.C. There were 390,202 Americans who stayed overnight in Canada after entering the country through a B.C. border crossing in June. That is down 27.5 per cent from the same month in 2019 but up 42.1 per cent from June 2022.

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