B.C. tourism numbers spike in first half of 2016

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This undated image provided by Vancouver Tourism shows strollers on Vancouver's Stanley Park seawall in British Columbia, Canada, as they pass Siwash Rock while looking out onto English Bay. One of the world’s largest urban parks, Stanley Park is named for the British lord for who gave his name the National Hockey’s League’s Stanley Cup. AP Photo/Tourism Vancouver/ Canadian Tourism Commission

British Columbia saw a huge increase in international tourists for the first half of 2016, up just over 12 per cent from the year before.

Statistics Canada tracked the number of overnight visitors to the province between January and June, counting over 2.3 million people.

It’s a 12.4 per cent increase from the same period in 2015.

The biggest increases came from the United States, China, and Mexico. Visitors from south of the border increased by 12.4 per cent, from China by 22 per cent, and from Mexico by 38.6 per cent.

“Tourism is off to a spectacular start this summer,” said Destination B.C. CEO Marsha Walden in a statement.

“With particulary high numbers from China and Mexico, and steady increases from the rest of our key markets, we expect international visitor arrivals to remain strong. Tourism businesses around the province are having a great season and are reporting strong bookings into the next. Our international visitors are discovering something we already know-it’s a great time to #exploreBC!”

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June was one of the biggest months for tourism with 656,676 visitors in total, up over 8 per cent from June 2015.

The tourism agency thanks the low Canadian dollar, increased air service to Vancouver, and Destination B.C.’s new marketing strategy, for the rise in visitors.

A new Aeromexico route between Mexico City and Vancouver that began in December 2015, alongside Air Canada’s service to the region, likely helped boost travel from Mexico. Vancouver Airport also added new service to Osaka, Japan and Kunming, China, and increased service to Taipei, Taiwan and Soeul, South Korea.

A sixth mainland China-based airline, Capital Airlines, also just announced they would begin to service Vancouver in December.

All these new international routes were made possible in part due to the government’s elimination of an international jet-fuel tax in 2012, said a release from the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training.

The ministry says tourism in B.C. has supported 127,500 employees and 19,000 businesses in the province.

Meanwhile, YVR is hoping to hit a record year with an expected 21-million passengers passing through the airport by year’s end.