Attendance dips at B.C.’s tourist attractions

Average number of customers has declined 1.4% since 2018, but is up 24.2% since 2015

The Vancouver Art Gallery was among the top B.C. tourist attractions to post a drop in attendance in 2019 after several consecutive years of double-digit growth | Chung Chow/Business in Vancouver files

Last year was not stellar for British Columbia’s most popular tourist attractions, though attendance figures for the past half-decade provide a silver lining.

In 2019, the average number of visits to the province’s top attractions fell 1.4% from 2018. However, the median change in visits was 0%, suggesting that smaller attractions lower on the list experienced relatively small declines, or growth, while larger attractions higher on the list suffered steeper drops in numbers.

The average one-year change in attendance among the top five was a 3.5% decline.

Despite the one-year decrease, B.C. tourist attractions have had growth over the past five years, raising their attendance by an average of 24.2% with the median at 20.5%.

The No. 11-ranked Vancouver Art Gallery had the largest one-year attendance drop, falling 16.8% to 500,029 visitors in 2019 from 601,242 in 2018. During the four years prior to 2019, gallery attendance grew an average of 19% each year, increasing attendance by 63.9% from 366,728 visits in 2015.

No. 14, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, boasted the largest one-year growth, increasing attendance by 12.4% to 300,000 visitors in 2019 from 267,000 in 2018. Most of the orchestra’s growth in attendance occurred over the past year.

Out of the top five attractions with five years of data, No. 6-ranked Science World had the steepest one-year attendance decrease, though it also recorded the largest five-year growth of the top five. Science World grew 52.1% from 565,819 visitors in 2015 to 860,316 in 2019, despite a 14% decline over the past year. If the 2019 decline is excluded,  Science World had 76.7%  growth in visitors to one million in 2018 from 2015.

No. 3-ranked Richmond Olympic Oval was the only attraction in the top five that saw visitor growth in the past year. Attendance at the facility grew 1.9% to 1.1 million visitors in 2019 from 1.08 million in 2018.