B.C. tourism industry sees uptick in international visitors

WATCH:  B.C. is experiencing record numbers of international visitors at the same time our lagging loonie is bringing more Americans north. Keith Baldrey reports.

It was another strong year for the tourism industry in British Columbia.

In 2014, the province saw an increase of 4.7 million international visitors, which is nearly 250,000 more people than the previous year. It is the third year in a row that international tourism numbers have increased in B.C.

Broken down, the tourism numbers show China had the greatest growth in visits to B.C. at 26 per cent with 21 per cent from India; 12 per cent from Japan and only three per cent from the United States.

Tourism Minister Maxime Bernier said marketing in the U.S., combined with the Canadian dollar’s lower value, could have a positive impact and raise that number.

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He said his ministry supports the Canadian Tourism Commission’s plan to resume marketing Canada as a tourist destination in the U.S. and hoped to see that reflected in the next federal budget.

READ MORE: Loonie’s crash may revive ‘extinct species’ in Canada – U.S. tourists

What do those numbers translate to in tourism dollars for B.C.?

In 2013, the province made $14 billion from tourism and had 132,000 jobs depending on the industry.

“Our work with the federal government and our tourism partners, as well as our focus on the tourism sector in the BC Jobs Plan, means we expect even more visitors will come experience our beautiful province,” B.C. Tourism Minister Naomi Yamamoto said in a statement.

In fact tourism as a whole is a growth driver for Canada.

Bernier said in 2014 the tourism industry provided nearly 628,000 jobs and tourism revenues in Canada reached $88.5 billion. He attributes the international growth to Canada’s tourism industry to our country’s reputation as “one of the best places in the world to live, work and invest” as well as our efforts in promoting it overseas.

In B.C. the price tag for promoting the province overseas is $90 million.

“The government recognizes that tourism is a significant growth driver for our country, and we will continue to work with industry and other levels of government to support an internationally competitive sector,” Bernier said.

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~ with files from Canadian Press