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Spending in Canada on tourism rises thanks to domestic tourists

Foreign visitors share of tourism spending in Canada declined slightly in early 2023, compared with late 2022
Luggage carts are stacked at Vancouver International Airport

Spending on tourism in Canada in the first quarter of 2023 rose despite international visitors spending less than they had in the preceding three months. 

Statistics Canada data released today show total tourism spending in Canada in the first quarter of 2023 was $20.791 billion in standardized 2012 dollars. 

That was up more than 2.6 per cent from $20.261 billion in the fourth quarter of 2022, and up more than 33.3 per cent from $15.592 billion in the first three months of 2022.

Statistics Canada includes spending on items such as transportation, accommodation, food and beverages, recreation and entertainment and travel agency fees as being tourism spending

The tourism-spending increase in sequential quarters came entirely from Canadians travelling domestically.

Canadians spent $15.59 billion on tourism in their own country in the first quarter of this year, up more than 3.5 per cent from the previous three months. In contrast, non-residents spent $5.201 billion on tourism in Canada in the first quarter of this year, down marginally from the $5.205 billion that they spent in the last quarter of 2022. 

The result was that the share overall tourism spending by visitors from outside the country fell to 25 per cent, from 25.7 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2022.

The international-visitor share of overall tourism spending had been higher pre-pandemic.  

In the first quarter of 2019, foreign visitors were responsible for 26.6 per cent of overall tourism spending in Canada. In the first quarter of 2018, that share was 27.2 per cent. 

The share of tourism spending by international visitors then plunged to a low of 1.5 per cent in the third quarter of 2020, and it had been coming back strongly. 

In the first quarter of 2022, for example, foreign visitors represented 14.4 per cent of all tourism spending in Canada, according to Statistics Canada. 

The most recent Statistics Canada data for international visitors was released June 23, and it showed a significant increase in non-resident visitors entering Canada through B.C. on a year-over-year basis in April. The 464,041 such visitors in April were 59.6-per-cent more than the 290,812 international visitors who entered Canada through B.C. in the same month in 2022.

The number of non-resident visitors entering Canada through B.C. in April 2019, however, was 529,609 – up 14.1 per cent from April. 

The biggest challenge in regaining the number of international visitors that B.C. saw pre-pandemic is for Chinese airlines to return to flying into Vancouver International Airport

Pre-pandemic, eight airlines flew a total of 53 non-stop flights between YVR and mainland China. Four airlines now fly seven weekly non-stop flights to mainland China out of YVR.

Air Canada flies four times per week to Shanghai. Three Chinese carriers operating out of YVR include Xiamen Air, Hainan Airlines and Sichuan Airlines.

The carriers that have yet to restart flights are:

•Air China;
•China Southern;
•China Eastern; and 
•Beijing Capital Airlines.

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