What happened: The country whose nationals’ visits to B.C. are increasing the most is by far India, according to Destination British Columbia data for the first eight months of the year. The statistics show 90,099 Indian citizens entering B.C. during the first eight months of the year – up 33.8% from the same period a year ago.
Why this matters: The tourism industry is one of the largest employers in the province and a huge driver for small businesses. Trends in where visitors originate may provide new opportunities for tourism operators to tailor their businesses to capitalize.
The likely explanation for the spike in visits from Indians is that Air Canada has been upping its number of non-stop daily flights between Vancouver and Delhi, the nation's capital, and a business centre.
Air Canada launched non-stop Vancouver-Delhi flights on October 20, 2016, when the flights, which were the first-ever non-stop trips between Vancouver and India, were three times per week and only operated during the winter months. Former Premier Christy Clark said in speeches that she thought that the airline's decision to launch the flights in part emanated from her urgings to Air Canada CEO Calin Rovenescu.
The airline then upped the frequency to be year-round instead of seasonal, with four round-trip flights per week in the summer and five round-trip flights per week during the winter.
There was a glitch in February, when Air Canada briefly suspended all non-stop Indian flights out of Vancouver because Pakistan closed its airspace in the wake of Indian Air Force attacks on what it considered a terrorist training camp in Balakot, following terror attacks in Kashmir.
Air Canada bumped up flights on the Vancouver-Delhi route to be daily, and made that frequency year-round as of June 2.
Another reason for the rise is that Indians are simply travelling more, and that happens on a wide range of airlines, including increasingly on mainland Chinese carriers.
Destination British Columbia spokeswoman Kristen Learned explained to Business in Vancouver that “many Chinese carriers have been discounting travel via China to help fill seats.”
She added that there has been an overall increase in outbound travel from India, which has more than 1.3 billion people.
“Outbound departures from India were forecast to grow by 9.3 per cent in 2019,” she said, citing Euromonitor statistics.
No other country’s citizens have been increasing their visits to B.C. anywhere near the rate at which India’s are.
The country with the next highest rate of increase during the first eight months of the year was Austria, with a 12.2% increase. There were, however, only 7,593 visits from Austrians in the first eight months of 2019.
Americans are by far the largest source of international visitors to B.C., and 4,590,126 U.S. citizens entered Canada via B.C. in the first eight months of 2019 – a 5.2% increase from the same period in 2018, according to Destination British Columbia.
That number includes 2,945,641 U.S. visitors who stayed overnight.
Overall, B.C. welcomed 4,562,555 international visitors who stayed overnight during the first eight months of 2019. That is up 3.6% from a the same period a year ago, according to Destination British Columbia.