British Columbia

Increased airline capacity boosts international tourism to B.C.

The B.C. government says increased airline traffic through Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is continuing to bring more international tourists to the province — particularly from China and India.

Airline fee-cuts help raise international tourism numbers by 12.2% over 2015

The provincial government says international tourism to B.C. is up, largely due to increased international flights to and from Vancouver Airport (YVR). (Mike Hillman/CBC)

The B.C. government says increased airline traffic through Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is continuing to bring more international tourists to the province — particularly from China and India.

Both the government and YVR say this increased capacity is due to rate cuts that make it a more affordable destination for airlines.

Shirley Bond — minister for jobs, tourism, skills training and labour and the MLA for Prince George-Valemount — said continued growth is good news for B.C.'s economy, particularly in rural and northern areas where tourism can be a viable alternative to struggling resource sectors.

"It's critical to a growing economy," Bond said. "It creates jobs in the province."

Bond said tourism employs over 127,000 people at 19,000 businesses provincially.

Steady growth

According to the government, 5.1 million international tourists visited B.C. in the first 11 months of 2016 — a 12.2 per cent increase over the same period in 2015. (Numbers for December 2016 are not yet available.)

Growth between 2014 and 2015 was about eight per cent.

The number of visitors from China in the first 11 months of 2016 is up 18.5 per cent over the same period in 2015. Travel from India is up 8.4 per cent during the same timeframe.

Bond said travel from Australia and Mexico also grew notably, but did not say by exactly how much.

A record-breaking 22.3 million passengers traveled through YVR in 2016, and the airport plans to increase its capacity to 35 million by 2037.

Lower rates means more flights

Anne Murray, vice-president of marketing and communications at YVR, said much of the growth is due to more frequent flights to YVR from cities like Delhi, Brisbane and Mexico City, as well as new traffic from mainland Chinese airlines like Beijing Capital Airlines.

Murray said growth from China has been strong since 2010, when Canada was added to China's approved destination list. She said YVR now works with more mainland Chinese airlines than any other airport in North America or Europe.

"Think about that," Murray said. "I mean, we're a big airport, but we're small relative to all these other airports."

Murray said one of the main reasons for that growth was that, over the last year, YVR lowered by 15 per cent the rates it charges airlines to operate there. The province also eliminated its international jet fuel tax.

"We think that's really helped in terms of growth," Bond said.

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