Vancouver tourism market increasingly connected to global affairs

With the local tourism sector experiencing the most growth from overseas visitors, faraway conflicts will start to feel closer

Cautious optimism was the theme of Tourism Vancouver’s Annual Tourism Outlook.

While the U.S. market continues to make up an important segment of the city’s tourism industry, the overseas market is where there is significant growth—meaning the global economy is becoming a barometer for local tourism.
From 2013 to 2014, the number of overseas visitors jumped eight per cent while the number of Americans spending at least one night in the city increased by only 2.8 per cent, according to data supplied to Tourism Vancouver by the Conference Board of Canada.

The result? The local tourism sector is increasingly connected to global events, Kip Beckman and Greg Hermus of the Conference Board of Canada, speakers at Wednesday’s event, explained. From geo-political unrest in Ukraine to the escalating ISIS conflict. And, of course, Europe’s stagnating economy.
Indeed, Europeans make up 30 per cent of overseas visitors to Vancouver, and at this week’s annual presentation, Beckman, an economist, was blunt in his assessment: “Growth is stalled, and a major restructuring of the European employment system is needed.”
In 2015, Canada is introducing a new requirement for visitors arriving from countries that do not require visas, known as Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA), which will cost $7 and be valid for five years, with American citizens exempted.

The benefits, however, could be negligible, said Greg Hermus, associate director at the Conference Board of Canada, who warned that the “ETA will add cost and inconvenience to the process [of tourism bookings] and could shave a per cent or so off potential growth. And while there are downside risks to all markets, the overseas market is potentially the most sensitive.”
Over the next year, the number of overseas visitors to Vancouver is projected to continue to rise—to almost 5 per cent—with a projected increase of only 3.4 per cent for U.S. travellers.