A surge in tourism in October and powerful growth in visits from China are helping to brighten a challenging year in B.C.'s tourism sector.
There were 226,069 total visits to B.C. this October, a 6.5-per-cent increase over October 2011, according to Statistics Canada.
Strong factors included a 6.7-per-cent increase in United States overnight visits; however, with a strong Canadian dollar, day visits from the U.S. tumbled by 10 per cent compared to October 2011, for a net U.S. visit loss of 1.5 per cent.
Meanwhile travel from economically-depressed Europe plummeted in October, with major source countries Germany and the United Kingdom falling more than eight per cent each, compared to October 2011.
The unmitigated bright spot in B.C. tourism was a huge surge of 26.8 per cent in visits from China, compared to October 2011.
Stephen Pearce, vice-president at Tourism Vancouver, said travel from China took off in 2010 when Vancouver hosted the 2010 Games, and Canada received "approved destination status" from the Chinese government.
"We are a new destination for China, and now that Vancouver has brand recognition in China, we've become the gateway for Chinese travel to Canada," Pearce said.
Stats from Tourism BC show the strong connection between Chinese travel to Vancouver and the whole country, with visits to B.C. and Canada up an identical 19.6 per cent so far in 2012.
Roy Chou, of Chinese tour operator TPI Silkway in Richmond, said the company has seen explosive growth over the past two years, with business from China jumping 186 per cent in 2011, and another 115 per cent in 2012. It's expected strong growth will continue for another three to five years, Chou said.
According to the provincial government, in 2011 the tourism industry generated $13.4 billion in revenue, and the largest increase driving B.C. GDP was from tourism. Across B.C., tourism is up 1.1 per cent to date in 2012, compared to a 1.9-per-cent rise across Canada.
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