One of Canada’s busiest downtown cores is still feeling a little empty.
The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association has found average weekly office foot traffic in the city’s core has only recovered to about 30 per cent of pre-pandemic levels throughout 2021.
According to its annual State of Downtown report, the peak hit 56 per cent in 2021, with the lowest weekly average at 17.3 per cent.
On the flip side, the report details Vancouver had the best retail recovery from the pandemic of any of Canada’s major markets.
Retail sales in the downtown core were up 14 per cent compared to 2019 and 25 per cent compared to 2020.
“We’re incredibly hopeful and excited about the recovery of our city. People are coming back to Downtown Vancouver faster than any other downtown in Canada,” president Nolan Marshall III said.
“Visitors are returning downtown to eat, drink, shop and attend events. These are all great signs of things to come.”
One of the big challenges facing the area will be the return-to-work model. The study found only 11 per cent of B.C. workers who worked remotely during the pandemic are expecting a full return to the office.
Most downtown businesses count on traffic from office workers before and after the workday and at lunchtime.
But a transition to more at-home work has not led to a collapse in the market.
In 2021, 173,555 square feet of office space was absorbed downtown, marking the most positive annual absorption since 2018.
Businesses are also watching the tourism industry’s recovery closely.
Year-over-year passenger traffic at Vancouver International Airport was down 72 per cent from 2019, but it was the second busiest Canadian airport.
Hotel occupancy increased from 29 per cent in 2020 to 40 per cent in 2021 — still half of 2019 occupancy levels.